Shanghai is the most populated city in China– but this wasn’t always the case. It is a great modern success story, especially given the fact that it was an unimportant fishing town at one point. It grew from a small town hardly on the map to the country’s biggest city and a one-time hub between the East and West.
The Treaty of Nanking stipulated in 1842 that Shanghai would be one of the cities opened to international trade. This, combined with its favorable location to port traffic combined to set the stage for a city that was to flourish into China’s largest city and the center of fashion, banking and art in Shanghai. So, how did this happen?
The 1842 Treaty of Nanking opened the city of Shanghai (among other cities) to international trade. As a result, Shanghai was opened to international commerce and small concessions were set up around the city to various international powers. French, British, American– there were concessions stretching from the Bund out past the River. This situation eventually came to an end with the invasion of the Japanese army, who retained control of the city until the conclusion of the war in 1945. With the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, the communists came to power and retook the city.
Shanghai became a center for leftism and political fervor. It eventually grew from the seat of communist power to the center of commerce and international trade. The 1950s and 1960s were a time of industrialization and growth. But the real bang was in 1991 when new reforms were enacted that opened the city to further development, including the development of Pudong and Lujiazui, which now hold the city’s massive skyscrapers and was the site of the tallest building in China for some time. From a small fishing village to a mega city that is the most populated in China.