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History Of Shanghai

Before you begin your homestay, read more about Shanghai history!

StatueThroughout most of China’s 5,000-year history, Shanghai was a quiet town dwarfed in size and importance by nearby Suzhou and Hangzhou. Before the nineteenth century, the town’s economy was completely dependent on cotton production and manufacturing. however, the industry was crushed by the industrial revolution in Britain and cotton production in the United States. It was the Ming Dynasty that served as the catalyst to Shanghai’s development. To keep Japanese pirates at bay, a wall was constructed, followed half a century later by the erection of the City God temple (Cheng huang Miao), an honor reserved for major cities. Both factors, but mostly the temple, reflected the town’s economic importance, giving the mere country town significant psychological encouragement.

It was already clear that Shanghai had potential for great economic growth owing to its strategic position at the mouth of the Yangtze river, giving it the ideal location for trade with the West.
From that point, Shanghai’s trade began to expand, and by 1735, it had grown into a major trade port. However, it was not until 1842 when the British arrived after their victory in the first opium War that Shanghai emerged as a major trading city. France and the United States, and later Japan, followed the British into Shanghai after the treaty of Nanking. Not only were Westerners granted concession areas in the city, but they also had complete control over Shanghai’s economy. after the end of the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese established the first factories in Shanghai, beginning the city’s industrialization. By 1900, Shanghai had a population of one million and had emerged as one of the world’s leading commercial centers.

Recent History

During the first part of the twentieth century, the city came into uncertain economic times. in his efforts to wrest control of Shanghai away from foreigners, Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Kuomintang, destabilized the economy. First, he demanded large monetary donations from local financial institutions and later nationalized all enterprises in the city. In 1937, after the Second Sino-Japanese War, the city fell under the control of the Japanese. after the city was secured by Communist forces in 1949, Shanghai spent decades being held up as a negative example for the rest of the country for harboring the ills of foreign culture and capitalism. its economy effectively mothballed as local taxes were used to build-up Beijing. During the 1980s, the early years of Deng Xiaoping’s reform era, Shanghai was overlooked in favor of Beijing and later the Pearl river Delta region. it was not until former Shanghai Mayors Jiang Zemin and Zhu rongji were in power during the early 1990s that Shanghai began to resurrect itself as a preeminent Asian city. in 1990, Shanghai’s return to prominence was given an invaluable boost by the establishment of the Pudong New area, an area the size of Singapore that sits on the opposite bank of the Huangpu river from Shanghai’s city center. Before 1990, the area of Pudong that is now the financial district was filled with worker slums and derelict warehouses. today, Pudong is a symbol of the city’s rapid rebound from the choke hold of central planning and this is where many of our homestay families are based.

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