Category Archives: Shanghai

Last of the bicycles?

Last of the bicycles?, Elosua Miguel

The increase of purchase capacity of urban residents has led to a massive increase in the number of cars in circulation within Chinese cities. The once ubiquitous bicycle yields to the (theoretically) more convenient car. In the space of seven years, the number of registered cars in the city of Beijing doubled, surpassing 5 million in 2011.1 By July 2012 there were about 72 million registered cars on the mainland, from just 10 million in 2003.2 At the same time, the city has greatly expanded. Its area spreads over 17,000 square kilometres (almost three times the size of Shanghai). However, although the city has experienced a distinct suburbanisation of the population, more than 60% of the total population lives in 8% of its total area, that is, in Central Beijing (within the third ring). Public transport has expanded in the same fashion. Of the total fifteen existing lines, thirteen were added to the network in the last ten years.

However, the quest for convenience and sustainability might mean the resurgence of bicycles. Commuting time and pollution has greatly increased and the government has started restricting car use to tackle pollution. Some residents might begin to consider it a good idea to dust off their old bicycle. Unlike some European cities, there is no need for added construction in China, since most of the main roads have dedicated bicycle lanes and most cities are flat like a pancake (this is not the case of Chongqing certainly, which is the reason why the motorbike industry developed rapidly there). Likewise, some cities have launched bike share schemes. In 2013, the Beijing municipal government funded a bike share with 14,000 bicycles distributed across 520 stations. According to the website, the program has not been very successful so far, with less than one rental a day per bicycle. It attributes part of this failure to the inconvenient location of the stations. Likewise, it reveals a change on the perception of bicycles. Owning a bike was a luxury just thirty years ago, but it became an undesirable, “common” means of transport. Car ownership is still a status symbol for many. The bigger the better, a philosophy which appears all over the world. Perhaps circumstances will make residents reconsider the bike as synonymous of convenience and simplicity, the ultimate sophistication according to Leonardo da Vinci. No doubt there would then be plenty of sophisticated riders commuting by bike and, consequently, air quality would be greatly improved.

Cycle rickshaw, Elosua MiguelCycle rickshaw in Wenchuan, Sichuan. Photo taken in March 2013.






  1. Source URL:, accessed on 15 January 2014. []
  2. Source URL:, accessed 15 January 2014. []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Villa Basset: French Consul’s residence in Shanghai

Couverture ShanghaiMarie-Claire Bergère , Françoise Ged, Danielle Elisseeff and Jérémy Cheval (2013). La Villa Basset : Résidence du consul général de France à Shanghai. Paris: Editions Internationales du Patrimoine.Collection / Série : Résidences de France ; 11. . Translators: Ju Wang et Xiaoli Wei. Photography: Jonathan Leijonhufvud.

From the mid-19th century to just after the Second World War, the responsibilities of the French Consul in Shanghai were twofold. On one hand, he must protect French interests in the face of senior officials of the local Chinese authorities and the agents of major foreign powers represented in Shanghai. On the other hand, he must oversee the management of the French Concession and ensure compliance, security, public order, urban planning regulation, education and health in this semi-colonial enclave. The consular residence with its vast administrative annexes was the principal power centre of this flourishing cosmopolitan metropolis for a century1.

The villa Basset is returning to the limelight. Listed as a historical building of Shanghai since 1994, it has also been registered since 2003 in the largest of the 12 protected areas of the city, an innovative municipal measure in China at the time. With this classification, as with the rest of Shanghai, the stories of the people who lived in this residence are coming out of the shadows too2.

Built in 1921 by French architects from the Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (Far East mortgage bank) by order of Lucien Basset, the consular villa combines Asian and European influences. Its hybrid architecture elegantly combines neoclassical columns, Flemish roofing, Italian balconies, capitals and mosaics and Chinese landscaped and rock gardens. This “Mediterranean” or “Italian style” house, whose story keeps the print of its successive occupants, remains a historical witness of the distinctive architecture of the old French Concession3.

The visitor enters this beautiful residence through the north side, as ordinary citizens and suppliers from the Forbidden City did during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911); but here, the vegetation surrounding the porch allows us to imagine what lies beyond, south of the house. We can easily guess that this visit, as with all beautiful villas built in Shanghai by Europeans during the Republic, will end in the garden, living jewel of the property4.

For more information.

  1. p. 17, text by Marie-Claire Bergère. []
  2. p. 59, text by Françoise Ged. []
  3. p.105, text by Jérémy Cheval. []
  4. p. 127, text by Danielle Elisseeff. []

Aurélia Martin

Chargée de communications et des médias pour l'UMR Chine Corée Japon (CNRS)

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Education, the key to success

This month, the OECD released the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results. According to this research, Shanghai pupils ranked first in the world in mathematics, sciences, and reading. Western media express criticism over the validity of such a survey since it compares a city, Shanghai, to entire countries.

Of course, it is possible to be critical and negative of this survey, and argue that Shanghai is not China. However, this test does tell us that there has been a significant effort to improve the level of education in China. We can also observe that many Asian city-countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore or even Macau achieved high scores. It seems that urban centres enjoy better educational services than rural regions.

Shanghainese may be able to boast of their performance in this test, but which Shanghainese are we talking about exactly? Locals? Migrants?

In Europe, we see increasing inequality in education among pupils. Children living in suburbs where there are high levels of poverty and unemployment have greater difficulty in completing their studies successfully. Moreover, many of these pupils are migrants’ children. Until now, the government has tried to implement a mainstreaming approach to this issue, and state schools have attempted to reduce these inequalities and offer the same education to every child. This policy cannot be considered a success, since inequalities still exist.

China faces a similar issue with her migrants’ children. Because of the hukou, many migrant children cannot study at the local school and instead must attend special migrant schools.

In a paper published last year, two scholars showed that migrant children, in migrant schools, achieved lower academic results than local pupils in state schools1 . The authors advocated for public schools being more accessible to migrants. It seems that some changes are happening thanks to media exposure (see SCMP article), and more migrant children are being enrolled in public schools.

However, as usual, there is a conflict between policy for the short term and the long term. Yes, it is costly to provide a high degree of education to both locals and migrants. Yet, if these migrant children are not offered this education, what then will be their future? What about Shanghai’s ambitions to become a world class service centre? Can Shanghai afford to exclude the migrant population from a leading education system?

  1. Chen Y. & Feng S. (2012). Acces to public schools and the education of migrant children in China. IZA Discussion paper No.6853, September 2012. Retreived from []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Xiao Hu, driver

Xiao Hu

Xiao Hu is a local Shanghainese. He works as a private driver for a local businessman with a net monthly salary of 3000RMB. He has been doing this job since 1999. In 1997, he joined the ranks of millions of xiagang zhigong (下岗职工), the workers layed off by the SOE (State Owned Enterprises), who no longer could enjoy the so-called iron rice bowl, or tiefanwan  (铁饭碗). Nonetheless, leaving his work unit or danwei (单位) didn’t go hand in hand with leaving his home: like most factories did at the time, unit homes were handed over to their occupants, and Xiao Hu became a home owner overnight (he obtained a leasing that, since the promulgation of the Real Estate Law in 2007, has an explicit duration of 70 years, automatically renewable, with right to transfer and to inherit).

It took him 10 years to get his personal dwelling. At that time, the housing shortage in many cities in China was such that workers had to wait as long as a lifetime to get public housing (until the mid-nineties half the population stayed in their parents homes due to this housing shortage)1. In the meantime, three generations, eight members in total, had to live in the same 24 square meters room. As the roof was high enough, they managed to build another floor so that they could double the living space, despite feeling more cramped. They had to share the bathroom and kitchen with other neighbours. When he first moved to his new home he was overjoyed. It was a 15.7 square meter apartment in one of the old Xuhui district. Back in 1985, the average living space per capita in China’s cities was just 7 square meters (one fourth the living space per capita in 2010)2. The monthly lease was, and still is, 50RMB per month.

In 1997 the number of vehicles in Shanghai was still low. He thought becoming a taxi driver could be quite profitable, with so many people earning higher salaries, expatriates flocking to Shanghai who were not allowed to drive in China, as well as tourists who came attracted by the revival of the “Paris of the Orient”. Being a local Shanghainese was an advantage since migrant workers were not allowed to get a taxi driver’s licence.  He studied how to drive and obtained his licence, but he soon discovered that it was very difficult to earn a livelihood as a taxi driver, unless he gave up sleeping. He had to pay a monthly fixed sum of 4,500 RMB from his revenue to the cab company (which was owned by the Shanghai Government). After meals, cigarettes, gas, and car maintenance, he calculated he would need to double that amount just to get by. Therefore, he quit the job after just one year and started his current job as private driver.

While during the last fifteen years the city’s economy has increased sixfold, his salary has not kept up with this pace. He has seen how soaring prices eat up his income every year, and feels nostalgic for the time when he started and had a greater purchasing power. However, this sentimentalism doesn’t go as far as longing once more for the iron rice bowl because, as he remarks, he can fill his stomach and dress warmly (chibao chuannuan – 吃饱穿暖). As is the case in many Shanghainese households, his wife oversees the household economy, giving him a 50 RMB daily allowance. Fortunately, he holds another account for himself where he deposits tips and money he gets from overtime work. As he enjoys his daily breakfast of youtiao (sort of Chinese churros) and rice congee, he reflects on the changes society has undergone during the last two decades. He has witnessed the comeback of social classes. Among his comrades from the old factory there are many who have succeeded in business and hold several apartments and luxury cars. They belong to a new rich class who flee to Sanya during winter, and who feast on hairy crabs every weekend.

Learning how to live in a consumer society where the number of unaffordable goods does not cease to grow hasn’t been difficult, as he belongs to those who learnt how to be happy with little. However, housing is a source of anxiety again, although this time for his daughter, who is already 28 years old, and won’t get married anytime soon. Had she a boyfriend, this problem would be solved, as Xiao Hu expects any prospective candidate to have an apartment as a prerequisite for further discussions about marriage. As is the case for most young people working in Shanghai, buying an apartment is almost unthinkable with just a salary (the average price per square meter is as much as 30 times average yearly incomes3). Despite the wave of redevelopments undergone in the city in the last two decades, his neighbourhood hasn’t changed, and probably will remain like this since the local government has declared the area as protected. There is little hope for an eventual expropriation that could land the family with a large apartment located in one of the city’s new districts. He considers himself lucky though, since compensation for expropriation is something that hasn’t always been satisfying. The family is contemplating buying an apartment built on farmers’ land. Although they are aware that it’s illegal, as the law forbids citizens to buy farmers’ homesteads (and forbids farmers to sell their homesteads), they are willing to take the risk. Prices are half those of similar properties in adjacent urban areas, and the local government has been lenient so far, although demolitions do happen now and again. Risk of demolition is low, he says, as he inhales the last drag of his cigarette. They still have to wait three years till Xiao Hu’s retirement, at which point they will probably leave the apartment to their daughter and the couple will move to the outskirts of the city. Or they will stay and continue sharing housing with her, and perhaps with the next generation, like the time when Xiao Hu was working at the state owned factory.




  1. Xing Quan Zhang (2008) Housing and Urban Upgrading in Yantai, China. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT []
  2. ibid 1 []
  3. China Daily. 2013, February 21. Addressing Realty Price Rises Accessed 3 October, 2013 []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Informal sector – Xiao Wang (小王)

Informal sector - Xiao Wang (小王), Elosua Miguel


This photo was taken in Shanghai in September 2013. Motorbike drivers wait for customers at the entrance of the Shanghai Exit-Entry Administration Bureau. A ride to the nearest subway usually takes five minutes and costs between 8 and 15 RMB, depending on the negotiation skills of the client.

Xiao Wang (left) has been doing this job for seven years already. In one day he can make more than 150RMB, around 4500RMB per month, well above the average salary of a migrant worker (in 2009, 30% of migrant workers did not earn more than 1100 RMB per month)1, and the equivalent of a taxi driver’s average income, although net of taxes. He came to Shanghai from the neighbouring Anhui province 10 years ago with his wife, who works as a domestic helper (baomu – 保姆,or ayi  阿姨,which means “aunt”, a common term for domestic helpers in China).  Xiao Wang worked in a factory first, only to become an entrepreneur when he made enough savings to buy a motorbike. Since he could not afford to buy a Shanghai licence plate (the Government of Shanghai runs auction sales and the auction price of a plate reached more than 90,000RMB in 2013), he bought and registered the motorbike in Anhui (vehicles registered elsewhere cannot circulate on elevated highways during peak hours). Among his fellows, there are also many Shanghai locals who joined the informal sector after the massive layoffs that took place as a consequence of the restructuring of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the mid-1990s.

The couple have a daughter, who is eight years old now and lives with Xiao Wang’s parents in Anhui. They send money every month to pay for her education. For a long time they could only travel back home for the Chinese New Year, but they can afford to do it twice a year now. Communication with their daughter is done through weekly telephone calls. New technologies and smart phones are still absent from their lives.

Back in Anhui, they had land to cultivate, but income from land was meagre. The agricultural tax had not been abolished yet, and agricultural allowances were paltry. Therefore, they decided to leave the land idle and migrate to the booming coastal city of Shanghai, like many other farmers from this province. After a few years, they rented out the land to another villager for 300RMB per mu (1 mu = 1/15 ha.) a year. This does not represent an important sum to the household economy but its significance is tied to the interest in keeping the land. Leaving land idle may cause them to lose it in the next round of land distribution in the village, something they cannot accept. As it is often the case with migrants in China, their heart still belongs to their hometowns. There is no sense of identity with the host city. This mentality contrasts with other inflow cities like New York, where migrants tend to identify with the city almost instantly. One of the main reasons for this lack of identification with the big city lies in the hukou system, which remains as a stumbling block to the full integration of rural citizens. Since migrant workers do not have access to urban welfare benefits, they are trapped mid-transition from rural to urban.

Xiao Wang is part of this group of migrant workers – approximately 150 million – who work in the informal sector: they lack a formal job, formal housing, and formal citizenship. They have to prepare for any eventuality, something that has made them China’s biggest savers group. Granting full citizenship to migrant workers would remove an important obstacle for upward social mobility and respectability. It would also increase tax revenues and would help the country stabilise the economy, encouraging migrant workers like Xiao Wang to reduce savings and increase spending.

  1. 2009 Nian nongmin gong jiance diaocha baogao, National bureau of statistics of China, (accessed 3 September 2013 []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Residential satisfaction in China’s informal settlements

Li, Zhigan1, Wu, Fulong2 (2013) Residential satisfaction in China’s informal settlements: a case study of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Urban Geography. Published online: 22 Jul 2013 [Ahead of print]

China’s informal settlements—villages inside urbanized areas—are often characterized by local governments as dirty, chaotic, and dangerous places. This negative discourse inevitably leads to recommendations for demolition. A number of criteria have been invoked in state decisions regarding the demolition of informal settlements; however, rarely are these places evaluated from the residents’ perspective. This paper, following a long tradition of residential satisfaction research in Western nations, uses a household survey to examine this topic in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. We find that local contexts not only matter, but may be the principal determinants of residential satisfaction. The residential satisfaction of village dwellers is not necessarily low, and most socioeconomic attributes are not statistically significant determinants of resident satisfaction. Migrants and low-income groups are not less satisfied than nonmigrants or middle-range income earners; the most important determinant is social attachment within the community. The perception of being excluded, or lacking neighborhood social attachment, significantly reduces residential satisfaction. No facilities can compensate for this negative exclusion factor. We conclude that demolishing informal settlements does not help to build a “harmonious society,” which is the purported goal of such programs. Removing the social and institutional barriers for migrant integration into the city is likely the most effective way to enhance residential satisfaction and neighborhood quality.

Full text available online (restricted access or purchase options)

  1. Guangdong Key Laboratory for Urbanization and Geo-simulation , School of Geography and Planning Sun Yat-sen University
  2. Bartlett School of Planning , University College London

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Smart cities: perspectives from Germany and China

ICT as an enabler for intelligent city development: perspectives from Germany and China

The development of Intelligent Cities is a topic of interest to public policy makers,
researchers, and businesses in both the developed and fast developing worlds.
China has made Intelligent City development a national priority and has already
developed a number of initiatives, not only in major cities such as Beijing and
Shanghai, but in newly developing centers such as Wuxi and Ningbo. Information
and Communications Technology are playing an essential role in these
The Chinese Academy of Engineering, acatech – the German National Academy of
Science and Engineering, and the Münchner Kreis have all been active in research
and discussions concerning Intelligent City development. In this conference, these
three organizations will bring together academic and business experts to present and
compare research, examples, and future visions both in China and Germany for the
development of Intelligent Cities using information and communication technology as
an enabler. This conference should be of interest to researchers, business
practitioners, but also local, state, and national government policy makers.


September 11 and 12, 2013


Haus der Bayerischen Wirtschaft, Munich, Germany


Not later than 4 September 2013

Participation fee

€ 420,- per person.

More details on the conference webpage

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Participatory processes in urban planning projects in China

Kern, Abigaïl-Laure1  and Bolay, Jean-Claude2 (2013). Participatory processes in urban planning projects in China: the example of Caoyang Village, Shanghai. In Silvia Hostettler and Eileen Hazboun (Ed.) Technologies for sustainable development : a way to reduce poverty? (pp.209-223). Springer International Publishing. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-00639-0_18

In order to provide the first elements of a participatory process initiated and led by Chinese authorities, this paper will look at the citizen’s involvement in an urban planning project in China and discuss possible avenues to sustain the process in a specific local context over the long-term. Since the end of the 1980s, most community participation projects in China have been implemented in rural environments. This participatory process was carried out in Shanghai’s historically and culturally symbolic Caoyang Workers’ Village, without the external influence of international bodies. Even if some constraints have emerged in the participation of citizens during the pre-project phase, this participatory process seems to have fostered local governance to make significant breakthroughs. It was also the opportunity to reflect upon the minimum conditions to ensure the sustainability of this type of practice in Chinese urban planning projects by adopting the vision of an adapted participatory process.
  1. Doctoral Program in Architecture and Science of the City, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  2. Cooperation and Development Centre, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Internal migration and urban dynamics in Shanghai

Zhao, Yeqin (2011). Construction des espaces urbains et rénovation d’un quartier de Shanghai : la problématique de la migration et du changement social. Shanghai : Sanlian shudian, 2011. (In French)

The book is based on a Ph. D. thesis in sociology, Cachan, École normale supérieure, co-tutoring with Shanghai Huadong shifan daxue, 2008.


Since the economic reform in the late 1970’s, China has undergone trmendous changes in poltical, social and cultural aspects. Two of the most important transformations are the urban growth and the flow of internal migration which is unprecedented in the history of China. This flow of internal migration has transformed the urban population.

The objective of this research is to analyze the complexity of relationships between migrnats from rural China and the indigenous inhabitants, who are often former migrants, in the context of ownership of an urban space (a poor community of Shanghai) which is dedicated to the renovation. These issues affect urban dynamics of contemporary China. This research has conducted a thorough analysis of previous empirical research, both Western and Chinese. The close link between migration and the city has directed towards a broader debate, particularly on internal migration and urban dynamics. We adopted the method of micro-sociology and regarded Yuanhenong, a poor neighborhood of Shanghai, as the unit of observation.

The research seeks not only to describe the transformation of Shanghai through a neighbourhood. it intends to show more generally : 1) that one must study the urban transformations from the activities and choies of people who “organize” the city, 2) how the internal migration and the mobility of population are transforming the cities of the emerging countries and how to build the new urban societies, and 3) the need to consider the question of Chinese specificities and its limits.

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Holy trees

Walking the streets of Pudong during the summer, Elosua Miguel

Pedestrian hiding from the sunlight before crossing a street in Pudong

With temperatures reaching 40 degrees and a relative humidity of 80%, walking the streets of Shanghai during the summer is an arduous venture. It can be a completely different experience if you are in Puxi or in Pudong, however.

Puxi’s streets are lined with plane trees, especially in the former French Concession (and particularly in the Luwan and Xuhui districts). There are a few different varieties of plane tree, but the one found in Shanghai, is the hybrid platane hispanica, thus named because it was first introduced in Spain around the Sixteen century. In China they are called French Plane trees (faguo wutong – 法国梧桐), for they were first planted along the Avenue Joffre (now Huai Hai lu – 淮海路) in 1902 by the French. Their life span is long, over a thousand years, and they may grow as high as 40 metres.

Plane trees are used for ornamental purposes in urban areas around the world, as they are particularly resistant to pollution and absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide. They are useful in disguising the urban attacks that every city suffers from now and then, but their most obvious asset in Shanghai is the shade they provide in the summer. Their branches are so long that they shade the whole road from one side to the other, forming a protective archway of leaves. Not a single ray of sunlight manages to get through this green barrier. This not only gives this part of the city a distinct character but also encourages people to walk rather than drive or travel by public transport.

Holy Trees, Elosua Miguel

In the modern eastern area of Pudong it is a completely different story. Although hundreds of high-rises have sprung up in the last twenty years, the trees do not rise as quickly as scaffolding. The French plane tree no longer dominates; streets are mostly lined up with the native camphor tree (xiang zhang shu – 香樟树), which, as it happens, grows slower. The result is disappointing: the long wide avenues are almost naked and resemble a barren plain, thus discouraging the most motivated pedestrians from venturing forth. As a result, the car is king of the streets and life moves underground, which is good for retailers, and follows the path towards a consumer society. It will take a few decades before the most apostate of the Taoists feels at ease walking the streets on this side of the city.

Pudong street, Elosua Miguel

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Contesting urban sustainabilities in China

Pow, C.P. and Neo, Harvey. (2013) Seeing red over green: contesting urban sustainabilities in China. Urban Studies. Prepublished March, 14, 2013, DOI: 10.1177/0042098013478239


The urban sustainability agenda is engaged at some levels with the two concepts of ecological modernisation and urban entrepreneurialism. While they share certain important commonalities (for example, the emphasis on what is normatively understood as ‘right’ policy-making), each has largely progressed on its own intellectual trajectory. It is suggested that the concepts of ecological modernisation and urban entrepreneurialism are crystallised and concretised in the idea(l) form of the ‘eco-city’ through the search for an ‘urban sustainability fix’ in urban China. Although the idea of constructing an ‘eco-city’ has been mooted since the 1980s, the concept remains somewhat elusive and controversial for a number of reasons. First, while its physical form and design appeal have often been promoted by urban planners, architects and government officials, the deeper normative tenets of building an eco-city are surprisingly ignored. Secondly, the lack of an ‘actually existing’ or successfully implemented eco-city project suggests the considerable amount of resistance and difficulties (in terms of planning, politics, economic costs, etc.) that the concept encounters in practice. To that end, the paper examines various green urban initiatives in reform China before focusing on the example of Shanghai’s Dongtan eco-city project (an entrepreneurial urban prestige-project jointly developed by the British and Chinese governments) to examine the challenges and contradictions of an urban sustainability fix in the guise of eco-city building in China.

Read the full article on SAGE Journals Online (restricted access)

  • Choo-Piew Pow, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore
  • Harvey Neo, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Urban history and urban development in China

Xue, Qian. 2013, March 8. Urban history : a knowledge base for urban development. (accessed 9 July 2013).

 Starting from 2013, the Hangzhou Cultural and Historical Research Association will embark on a five year Wuhan Changjiang Bridge, 1957project investigating various aspects of the city’s history, including industrial development, urban construction, transportation development, etc. It is expected to provide knowledge and referential experience for current urban development.

Since the 1980s, China’s rapid urbanization has drawn more and more scholars toward the study of urban history; research on Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Wuhan has achieved significant results.

Chinese urban history studies grow fast

According to incomplete statistics, during the period from 1979 to 2010, publications on Chinese urban history totaled more than 2,000 volumes.
Professor Li Changli at the Institute of Modern History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,  said that in the past 20 or more years, the urban development in China has inspired many new topics and subfields among urban historian. Research in the area is blossoming. Particularly in recent years, publications of Chinese urban history have seen greater serialization, covered a broader range of issues and reached a more international audience.

Urban history is a branch of history.  It originated in the 1920s in the west and saw a revival in the 1960s; till 1980s, the subject had only gradually drawn attention from Chinese academia. He Yimin, vice president of the Chinese Urban History Association and director of the Institute of Urban Studies at Sichuan University, noted that China’s social development, urbanization, industrialization and modernization are the driving forces of Urban History Studies. Scholars often take major emerging cities such as Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Wuhan as original research subjects; today, their research is developing quickly.

Read more on Social Sciences in China Press


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Shanghai’s point redemption scheme for residence permit

Translation by Chen Yang

Zhongguo zuida chengshi Shanghai ronghua huji jian bing  中国最大城市上海融化户籍坚冰 , 20 June 2013 [Accessed 10 July 2013]

The Chinese central government work report of 2013 stated that reform of the household registration system, social management and relevant systems will be accelerated. Registration of the rural population as permanent urban residents will be conducted in an orderly manner, gradually ensuring that permanent urban residents have access to basic urban public services and offering an equitable environment for general freedom of movement and contentment in living and working.

The Shanghai government announced on June 19 that the new “Regulation on Shanghai residence permit management” would go into force on July 1, introducing the “point redemption scheme” to eligible permit holders with stable residence and employment. According to the new regulation, any floating resident who works in Shanghai and pays employee social insurance monthly will accumulate 3 points every year; accumulate 30 points when his/her profession is on the Shanghai skilled occupation demand list and he/she works in accordance with his/her respective profession; accumulate a maximum of 140 points according to his/her professional and technical title; accumulate a maximum of 110 points according to advanced education; accumulate a maximum of 20 points when the resident works and lives in a prioritised rural developing area; etc. As soon as the score reaches 120 points, residence is awarded with social insurance and education for children; for instance, children living in Shanghai with their parents can participate in Shanghai’s entrance examination for senior high school and university.

For residents who are employed in the low-end service industry, the new regulation offers them better public service, especially children’s education, so long as they have lived in Shanghai for a sufficient period of time. Most migrant workers prefer that their children be educated in Shanghai and attend local entrance examination for senior high school and university, no matter how hard they have to work to stay in Shanghai.

For residents that work as white-collars in a company, the new Regulation allows the possibility to keep their rural household account while enjoying urban public services. Previously, they would consider carefully whether they should shift their account to Shanghai or not, because they all share a bonus thanks to their hold of land in their hometown, therefore the financial loss is considerable if they shift. However, the impact on their children’s education also must be considered if they don’t shift.

Min Lu, economist at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, believes that the relaxation of the household registration policy will promote fairness, on one hand – the external floating population contributes to urban development and therefore deserves equal access to urban public services – on the other hand, it will promote economic growth and harmonious social development, attracting high-end labour to accelerate urban innovation transition and low-end labour to meet the demand of the service industry and to ease labour cost.

Chang Min Sun, researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, believes that Shanghai’s reform of household registration marks one critical step in breaking the urban-rural dualistic structure and is a significant turning point. The conventional population management system is based on household location management. However, the system will progressively move to residents location management following the further reform of residence permits.

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Hotel Shanghai, a bitter story

The Park Hotel in Shanghai (brown building), Goulard Sébastien

The old Shanghai and her concessions, has provided the setting for numerous works of fiction. Various authors have been inspired by Shanghai’s chaotic atmosphere in the first half of the 20th century. Millions of European children have learned about Shanghai’s contemporary history and the opium trade through Hergé’s comic book “The Blue Lotus”.

“Hotel Shanghai”, a novel by Vicki Baum (1888-1960), a well-known Austrian writer, is another example of the importance of Colonial Shanghai in world literature.  In this novel, Vicki Baum tells the story of nine characters who all died in a hotel in Shanghai during the events of the so-called “Bloody Saturday” on August 14, 1937, when Chinese aircraft accidentally dropped two bombs on the Cathay and Palace Hotels while trying to bomb a Japanese man-of-war ship.

The nine characters in “Hotel Shanghai” all have difference backgrounds; there is a Hawaiian photographer, a Japanese reporter, an American nurse, a failed German musician, a Jewish doctor, a Chinese gangster and his son, a Chinese coolie and a Russian princess. It is their destiny to meet and die in Shanghai.

At that time, because of the foreign concessions, Shanghai had become a genuine global city where East meets West, attracting people from all over the world. It became a shelter for thousands of Jewish people fleeing European extremism. Shanghai’s prosperity also attracted Chinese migrants and symbolized modernism. But Shanghai was home to inequalities, and many migrants’ ambitions (both Chinese and Western ones) faded in the face of the hard realities of Shanghai. The international concessions provided opportunities for some to succeed, but in the absence of governance, the city’s prosperity was unfairly distributed.

What can we learn from this novel regarding Shanghai’s new leading role?

Shanghai is trying to revive her global past, but the authorities need to be prepared for the challenges created by this ambitious goal. As this novel demonstrates, global cities suffer from many afflictions including inequality, deep poverty, crime and health issues (for example, New York and Paris are victims of a resurgence of tuberculosis). The foreign concessions in Shanghai could be compared to an ivory tower where (some) inhabitants felt they lived thousands of kilometres from China. But in the end, reality caught up with everyone. This proves that Shanghai, like all cities, cannot live apart from its environment, and that inequality is an issue that must be dealt with firmly in order to survive.

 Hotel Shanghai, where a large part of this story takes place, does not appear to have ever existed. However, as described by Baum, “Hotel Shanghai” is a combination of the Cathay Hotel, the Palace Hotel (now the Peace Hotel) on the Bund and the Park Hotel facing the People’s Square.


Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Is China about to introduce a national carbon price?

Arup, Tom. (2013) Where there’s smoke there’s China. The Age World, 8 May (accessed 7 June 2013).

As a former top diplomat in Beijing, and after three decades of professional and personal engagement with the country, Professor Ross Garnaut is no stranger to China.

In January, the respected economist and former Labor climate policy tsar found himself in Beijing again, this time to open a workshop hosted in part by China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission.

Gathered were a group of international policy wonks, including many Australians and local government officials. They met to discuss options for what some in the public debate deny is happening – the introduction of a national carbon price in China.

In just over a month China will begin a massive experiment in emissions trading when the first of seven regional pilot schemes kicks off (and which one day may develop into a national scheme).

The stakes are high. China emits one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases. It is easily the world’s largest consumer of coal. In 2011 it released an estimated 9.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – more than the US and India combined.

In his speech Garnaut painted a cautious, but encouraging, picture of where China stands on climate change.

Read more here


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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