Although this is now one of many trips to China, I still find myself in utter awe of a country that is undeniably rich in history while also such a pivotal player in today’s current storyline.
I am starting my Asia journey in Shanghai, a little city, which consists of about 24.15 million people. 24.15 million people! Crazy! I mean NYC can only boast of 8.5 million people!
Believe it or not, until 1842, Shanghai's location made it merely a small fishing village. After the first Opium War, however, the British named Shanghai a treaty port, debuting the city to the world. The village quickly transformed into a substantial industrial center and trading port that attracted not only foreign businesspeople (60,000 by the 1930s) but also Chinese migrants from other parts of the country.
These were the days when Shanghai was the place to be. The city offered the most progressive art, the most impressive architecture, and the strongest businesses in Asia. Shanghai beckoned the rich and powerful to its doors. And soon enough, the city became known as the place of vice and indulgence.
Unfortunately, the glitz began to fade as the city endured a series of invasions in the 1930s and '40s. Once Shanghai was finally forced to succumb to Japanese occupation. The party was truly over.
By 1943, at the height of World War II, Shanghai's 101 years as a treaty port came to a close. Despite the war's end, the city continued to host violence as fighting continued between Nationalists and Communists, a three-year civil war for control of China. The Communists declared victory in 1949 and established the People's Republic of China.
The three decades from 1950 to 1980 passed by with one Five Year Plan after another, marked by periods of famine and drought, reform and suppression.
Yet, in 1972, with the Cultural Revolution still raging, Shanghai hosted the historic meeting that would help lay the groundwork for the China of today. Premier Zhou Enlai and U.S. president Richard Nixon signed the Shanghai Communiqué, which enabled the two countries to normalize relations and encouraged China to open talks with the rest of the world. Twenty years later, the 14th Party Congress endorsed the concept of a socialist market economy, opening the door to foreign investment.
Today Shanghai has once again become one of China's most progressive cities. So bring it on Shanghai! I’m ready for you!