I was recently reading about China’s plan to add 13,000 kms of high-speed train tracks, and was reminded of my first visit to China more than 7 years ago. Here is what I wrote then about my visit to Shanghai:
Shanghai is a mix of the historic, the recent past and the futuristic. It has been a beacon for international trade for many centuries (”Paris of the Orient”) and has maintained its international flavour, ever since the foreigners gatecrashed into Shanghai in 1842. The local government has poured money into infrastructure and it shows. At one time, it was the largest construction site in the world (a quarter to half the world’s cranes were reportedly deployed in Shanghai in the past decade). Skyscrapers, multi-tiered roads and expressways, an efficient metro system, tourist attractions like the Bund, Shanghai Museum, Nanjing Pedestrian Walk – they are all there.
What is amazing though is what has happened on the east of the Huangpu river. Here, a city has been created from scratch. It is breath-taking. The mix of glass and steel rises above the expansive pavements and roads. The Pudong New Area still has a fresh feel to it. The Jinmao Tower, which also houses the Grand Hyatt, offers spectacular views of the surroundings.
Shanghai is the engine powering China ahead. It has been undoubtedly dressed up for the external world to see and experience the New China. Shanghai’s look-and-feel makes me dream of what Mumbai could have been.