The “oriental Paris”, the “Pearl of the Orient” or even the “whore of the East” were names coined at the beginning of the past century to express the splendor and miseries of Shanghai, which at that time was one of the economic, and vice, capitals of the world. After the break imposed by Maoism, the city has awakened again to recover its place as one of the cultural, artistic, and economic epicenters of the XXI century. Foreigners have also returned to its urban landscape, fortunately without the former colonial connotations.
The name of the city means literally “above the sea” – shang (ä¸Š ): above / hai (æµ·): sea. Scholars reason that this comes from the great influence of the ocean in the development of the city, but there is also a theory that the city was simply, at one time, in the coastal line. Its origins are in the X century when it was born as a small commercial village thanks to its privileged position next to the Huangpu River, one affluent of the Yangtze. Its first population boom was in the XII century when Shanghai received many refugees from the conquered Dalian. But Shanghai started to be what is today during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), when the Western powers were interested in it as a port of entrance for its products to the rest of the country through the Yangtze River.
After the Opium Wars (1839-1842 / 1856-1860), foreign concessions, areas inside the city under the law of different powers, were created. In practical terms, the city was controlled by the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. Thanks to this international status, the city was relatively immune from the revolutions and wars of the beginning of the XX century. Instead, for Shanghai, those were the years of the luxurious music halls, big fortunes, drugs, prostitution, and gangsters. This came to an abrupt end, however, with World War II, when the city was occupied by the Japanese, and power was seized by the Communist Party (1949). The city suffered the rigors of the Cultural Revolution, but after Mao’s death, and especially after 1991 when Jiang Zemin, Shanghainese and former mayor of the city, became president, the city began to open itself to the world and recover its economic importance.
Today, Shanghai is a municipality, although administrative figures give Shanghai the range of a province – with around 20 million inhabitants. The exact figure is difficult to determine due to the many non-registered inhabitants.
Shanghai is a city quite friendly to ex-pats. Its growing economic and financial importance has spurred an influx of foreign workers and the ex-pat population is constantly on the rise. The services sector, from restaurants to supermarkets to private schools to relocation companies, is not unaware of this opportunity.