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November 3, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright November 3, 2008 Maura Cunningham. Used by permission.


During the two years I recently spent in Nanjing as a student at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, Shanghai became an increasingly frequent choice when I needed to get away and wander the streets of China for a bit. With the introduction of CRH express train service in 2007, travel time between Nanjing and Shanghai fell to only two hours, and I rejoiced in the improved accessibility of Shanghai’s malls, restaurants, bookstores, and cultural events. However, I often found that I ended my Shanghai sojourns as eager to return to Nanjing as I had been to leave it only a day or two earlier. While Shanghai provided me with plenty of diversions, it also raised serious questions in my mind concerning the relationship between the foreign and Chinese communities in the city.

Now that the Olympics have passed, China has begun gearing up for the country’s next big international event: the 2010 World Expo to be held in Shanghai, beginning on May 1, 2010. In addition to massive Expo-related construction projects and infrastructure development, Shanghai officials are also testing the city’s Expo readiness by hosting smaller meetings and performances that are designed to attract international crowds. Broadway shows are now coming to Shanghai through the Nederlander China organization, and the city has been a tour stop for foreign musical acts as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Linkin Park, and the New York Philharmonic. Currently, visitors to the 7th annual Shanghai Biennale can ponder artworks centered on the theme of “mobility related to the urban, economic, and social developments;” next March, dozens of authors from around the globe will participate in the sixth year of the Shanghai International Literary Festival.