Sun, 21 May 2000

Shanghai takes its place as a cosmopolitan city

China was one of the first countries to recognize Indonesia's independence. The strong bilateral ties were cut in 1967 when Jakarta accused Beijing of backing an abortive communist coup in 1965, a charge China denies. Formal diplomatic ties resumed in 1990. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of relations, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited a delegation of Indonesian journalists to visit China earlier this month. Below are reports and photos by The Jakarta Post's T. Sima Gunawan.

SHANGHAI (JP): As the woman pushes the button, the elevator door closes and she informs the passengers in a soft voice that they will be going up at a speed of six meters per second.

When she has finished making the announcement, in Mandarin and English, the door opens. Voila -- one is perched 339 meters above the ground at the Space Module of the Oriental Pearl Tower. The 468-meter-tall radio and TV tower, including its 60-meter-tall antenna, is the highest TV tower in Asia and the third highest in the world.

A sightseeing floor, a conference hall and a coffee bar are available at the Space Module. Two other sightseeing spots are located on the lower level. There is also a hotel and a restaurant in the building, which has become one of the main tourist attractions in the area.

The tower is located at the mouth of Lujiazui finance and trade zone, at the gateway to Pudong's economic and financial development area.

It was built in 1993 at a cost of 900 million RMB (about US$112.5 million), according to the local office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The construction was completed in less than six years.

"Today, about 10,000 visitors come to the Space module every day," a guide from the ministry said. "The cost (for construction) has been recovered."

The entry fee to the Space Module is 100 RMB (more than US$12).

From the tower, visitors enjoy the beautiful scenery around Huangpu River. There is the Bund, the boulevard famous for its European-style buildings dating back to Shanghai's heyday in the 1920s. Boats plow the river and high-rise buildings are everywhere on land.

The bridge along the Huangpu River next to the Bund is a favorite spot for lovers, especially when night descends. Street photographers are ready to record the special moments for posterity, while cold drinks and snacks, including grilled corn, are available.

The Oriental Pearl Tower is only one of 2,400 modern buildings, mostly skyscrapers, built in Shanghai in the past eight years.

Once a small fishing village, Shanghai had grown into the biggest city in the Far East industrial and commercial center of China.


It has a long history, including when China was defeated in the Opium War in 1942. Britain, the United States, France, Russia and Japan forced China to open its five main cities, including Shanghai. It was not until 1949 that China regained control of the famed city.

After the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, China began to introduce reform schemes in various areas, including economics, in the 1970s. In 1990, the central government decided to change the function of Shanghai from an industrial center to a financial center.

There is no money provided by the central government but the Shanghai administration may use 5 percent of its revenue to develop its own area.

Assistant director of the foreign affairs office of Shanghai Municipal People's Government Kitty Xia said that in the past eight years they invested US$120 million in infrastructure.

"Within 20 years we plan to have 11 metro lines and seven overflying lines," she said.

There are currently two metro lines and another one is under construction.

In the meantime, the municipal government keeps pushing forward reforms by building market economics, opening a new area, Pudong, and at the same time improving education and social welfare.

They apply a industrialization policy of three in one. "Meaning that we give priority to three industries: financial, commercial and information industry," said vice secretary-general of the Shanghai Association of Planning Xiao Lin, who is also director and senior economist of the policy and law department of the Shanghai municipal planning commission.

Xiao Lin said financial revenue last year was 130 billion RMB (US$16.25 billion), accounting for 34 percent of total GDP.

"From 1991 to 1999, the annual average growth rate was 10.3 percent while last year's per capita income was $3,720," he said of a figure which is six times the national level.

Shanghai has trade relations with 188 countries and there are more than 1,000 firms with foreign investment. Up to 1999 total contracts for foreign investment amounted to US$13 billion, while paid investment was $27.7 billion.

"Of the 500 leading world class companies, 254 of them have invested in Shanghai, mostly in Pudong," he said.

One can breathe easy on the city's streets, thanks to compulsory vehicle emission tests and the use of unleaded gasoline.

To curb industrial pollution of rivers, strict regulations have been implemented. Polluting companies with low profits must be closed, but those which are profitable are ordered to be relocated to peripheral areas, with financial support from the government.

Urbanization presents its own set of problems. Shanghai is now home to 13.5 million people with a total labor force of more than 5 million. Over 1 million workers are from other provinces.

Xiao Lin estimated there were between 200,000 and 300,000 unemployed people in Shanghai.

Many lost their jobs as a result of the government's decision to close down state-owned enterprises and to merge them in an efficiency scheme. Living allowances are provided for the unemployed.

On human resources development, the Shanghai administration prioritizes assistance to gifted individuals regardless of their age.

Xiao Lin, for example, is in his early 30s, while his assistant, Chen Shi Yan, is in her late 20s.

"No matter what age you are, if you are capable, you'll be given an important position," Xiao Lin said.