Frontline World

CHINA - Shanghai Nights, June 2004

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Facts & Stats

• General Background
• China's Economy
• Shanghai
• Shanghai's Economy
• Youth Culture and Media

General Background

China was unified into a single country during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 b.c.). Around the same time, the Chinese also completed construction of the Great Wall.

Following years of internal chaos and war with the Japanese, the People's Republic of China was founded on October 1, 1949, by Mao Zedong.

At 3,705,407 square miles (9,596,960 sq km), China is slightly smaller than the United States, but its population of 1.3 billion is four times greater.

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China's Economy

China is rapidly modernizing and embracing new technology. From 1998 to 2001, the number of computers in the country doubled and the number of telephones nearly tripled.

China's policy of gradually initiating economic reforms began under the moderate Communist leader Deng Xiaopeng. During the 1980s, the government began to open its borders to international trade through newly formed special economic zones, where foreign companies could invest.

In November 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization, ending a decades-long struggle to gain free access to international markets.

Today, China has the second-largest economy in the world -- and it's also one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The investment firm Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2040, China's economy will be larger than that of the United States on an overall basis. The Chinese government has annual revenues of $224 billion; U.S. retailer Wal-Mart has annual revenues of $256 billion.

The Chinese economy added 8.5 million jobs in 2003 -- or 23,000 jobs a day -- according to government figures. At the same time, the Chinese government laid off 2.6 million people as many state-owned enterprises were privatized. The urban unemployment rate recorded by the Chinese government is 4.3 percent.

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Although less than 2 percent of China's population lives in Shanghai, the city contributes more than 11 percent of China's total income. A quarter of all commodities in China pass through Shanghai ports; the city processes 10 percent of all cargo volume in China.

Built on a swamp at the mouth of the Yangzi River, Shanghai was a small fishing village until it was colonized in the mid-19th century by the British.

For more than a century and a half, Shanghai has served as a trading post and hub of international culture within China. It has also maintained a reputation for both sophistication and vice. Today, it is considered the economic and cultural center of China.

Greater Shanghai extends about 74 miles (120 km) north to south and 62 miles (100 km) east to west. The city has 19 districts and three islands under its jurisdiction. In Chinese, Shanghai is sometimes referred to by its nicknames, Hu and Shen. "Hu" is the name of an ancient Chinese fishing tool; "Shen" derives from the name of a governor who ruled the city in the eighth century b.c.

While the standard language in China is Mandarin, or Putonghua, Shanghai residents more often speak their local dialect, Shanghaiese, among themselves.

Since 2001, more than 3 million people have moved to Shanghai, swelling the city's population above 20 million within the city itself. With a land area of 2,448 square miles (6,340 sq km), it is the fourth most densely populated city in the world, after London, Mexico City and New York.

From 1921 to 1965, Shanghai sank roughly 8 feet because of the draining of groundwater underneath it. Though no longer sinking at such a rapid rate, the city is apparently continuing its drop into the earth, at a rate estimated to be just under half an inch (1 cm) a year. Many believe that the problem is exacerbated by construction of high-rises: Shanghai has nearly 2,900 skyscrapers that are 18 stories tall or taller.

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Shanghai's Economy

Shanghai's economy experienced double-digit growth in 2003 for the 12th straight year. Foreign investment in the city is also booming, with more than 4,300 international contracts, totaling $11 billion, signed in 2003. This marks an increase of nearly 24 percent from 2002.

The average person in China earns less than a $1,000 a year, but the average person in Shanghai makes $4,910 a year. Meanwhile, a worker in rural Gizhou is estimated to earn less than $400 a year.

Fourteen of China's 100 richest people either live in Shanghai or have a business based in Shanghai.

In 2002, private businesses in Shanghai contributed 32 percent of the city's gross domestic product, up from just 18 percent in 1995. At the same time, state enterprises contributed 68 percent, down from 82 percent in 1995.

Between 1996 and 2001, the number of passenger vehicles in Shanghai increased by 180 percent and the number of motorcycles, by 536 percent. From 1990 to 2001, the number of traffic accidents in Shanghai increased more than fivefold.

Property prices in Shanghai climbed more than 20 percent in 2003 as the city invested 90 billion yuan in property development.

According to the Shenzen Watch and Clock Association, 300,000 luxury watches, at a cost of more than 5,000 yuan (US$602.40) each, are sold in China each year, with one-third being purchased in Shanghai alone.

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Youth Culture and Media

Despite efforts to control population growth, the median age in China is 31.5 years, four years younger than in the United States. Twenty-three percent of the population is below age 15, compared with 21 percent in the United States.

Attendance at Chinese universities is booming. The number of graduates of higher education is expected to reach 2.8 million in 2004, more than double the number of 2002. And in 2005, 3.2 million are expected to graduate from an institution of higher education.

Because of a shortage of young women, caused in part by a cultural preference for boys, the Chinese government predicts the country could have 40 million bachelors by 2020.

As of 2003, China had 80 million Internet users, surpassing Japan as the second-largest "Internet community" in the world. Most of the activity is concentrated in big cities like Shanghai, where a third of the population is online, compared with 6 percent in China overall.

Seeking to protect its youth from "unhealthy online information," the Chinese government has banned Internet cafés from operating within 660 feet (200 m) of schools or residential areas.

Sales of consumer goods in China surged more than tenfold from 1992 to 2002, to US$494 billion. The market for toiletries and cosmetics hit $3 billion in 2003 and is expected to reach $22 billion by 2013.

The divorce rate in China has quadrupled in the last two decades, to 10 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of youth criminals doubled to 12 percent from 1997 to 2000, making them the fastest-growing segment of offenders in China.

According to Forbes Global magazine and Shanghai-based British accountant Rupert Hoogewerf, China boasts more than 100 individuals with personal assets of $100 million or more.

China makes nearly 40 percent of the world's mobile phones, nearly 50 percent of the world's cameras and shoes, and nearly 40 percent of all laptops. It trails only Canada as the leading supplier of manufactured goods to the United States.

China has an estimated 94 million migrant workers, and more than a third of rural laborers now work in nonagricultural industries in urban centers like Beijing and Shanghai.

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The Economist; AsiaPulse Ltd.; BBC News; The New York Times;;; CIA World Factbook; Consumer China 2004; Euromonitor International; Financial Times Information; TimeAsia; CNETAsia; Lonely Planet WorldGuide: China; Los Angeles Times;; South China Morning Post; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Official Site of the City of Shanghai,; Shanghai Municipal Statistics Bureau; Automotive News Europe; World Bank: China Data Profile; World Resources Institute.