Shanghai proves its mettle by joining top 10 appealing cities

Ding Yining
The fact that new COVID-19 cases haven't impacted Shanghai's overall business operations is good proof of the city's deft handling of the virus and appeals to corporations.
Ding Yining
Shanghai proves its mettle by joining top 10 appealing cities

Shanghai stands out among most other global cities, according to third-party rankings and surveys, after proving its mettle in the fight against COVID-19 and in the ability to mobilize new technologies and digital economies to serve the basic daily needs of its residents.

Many risks and contradictions coexist in mega cities, especially in the face of a pandemic, but how cities tackle unexpected events and drastic shifts of residents' behavior has come to the fore over the past year and will continue to be a key topic for urban governance.

The fact that sporadic new COVID-19 cases haven't impacted Shanghai's overall business operations — and most people's daily routines haven't been disrupted — is positive proof of the city's deft handling of the virus and appeals to corporations.

Digital infrastructures have been fully mobilized to serve businesses and residents — a critical part of Shanghai's urban planning for more than a decade.

Officials from the Shanghai Development Research Center for Economy and Informatization said last week that the city's smart city development index has continued to rise over the past seven years, thanks to wider digital coverage, improved e-governance services and expanding adoption of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

The city plans to triple the download speed of its 5G network to 1 gigabyte per second, while the family broadband download speed will double to 100 megabytes per second by 2023.

Last month, Shanghai was selected the "Smart City of 2020" by the Smart City Expo World Congress, an annual event organized by Barcelona’s trade fair institution to recognize pioneering projects, ideas and strategies that make cities more livable, sustainable and economically viable.

A series of soft measures such as environmental protection and consciousness toward a green lifestyle to promote urban life and natural resources preservation have become key measurements for conducting business.

"Sustainability also becomes a key measurement while making investment decisions, and a core concept for social and economic development widely accepted by all parties and nations," said Deloitte China Sustainability partner Jolin Gu.

A clear target for sustainability goals can serve as an instructive signal for investors.

"Shanghai's competence in the global economy is rising steadily, and its modern traffic and electricity infrastructure outpace many Western counterparts — as does its potential for sustainable development in the future," Gu said.

In addition to tax policies, overall efficiency and general business environment, a city's natural environment and infrastructure are also important factors when investors decide where to spend their money, she said.

Shanghai made the biggest jump in overall ratings and became the first metropolitan area in China to enter the global top 10 appealing cities, according to the latest Global Power City Index released on December 8.

Major advances have been made in the city regarding strong and effective means to tackle the pandemic and alternative ways of working, according to the study compiled by the Institute for Urban Strategies at Japan’s Mori Memorial Foundation.

“Experiencing the impact of COVID-19 earlier than many other cities, Shanghai took the opportunity to accelerate the development of new working ways,” the survey says.

Shanghai improved its score in all functions aside from research and development, greatly lifting its comprehensive score and overtaking Sydney to be included in the global list for the first time.

In the economy function subindex, Shanghai landed in 11th place, moving up from 16th last year by increasing its "Variety of Workplace Options" score, including higher fixed broadband speed as remote working is becoming more common.

In addition to achieving fourth place in the "Satisfaction with Urban Cleanliness" indicator, Shanghai remained in first place in "Total Employment," as well as achieving top scores in Nominal GDP and GDP Growth Rate. The city also improved its standing in "Variety of Workplace Options" this year.

"As cities shift increasingly into the new knowledge economy, the imperatives of mutual physical proximity in the workplace and other social venues will continue to exert themselves," said Allen Scott, a distinguished research professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Mori Memorial Foundation’s paper also suggests resilience to social risks such as pandemics and terrorism should be considered, while receptiveness to digitization — everything from digital currency to opportunities for online college classes — could become new evaluation criteria.

It's not a coincidence that resilience is also a key dimension this year in the annual Chinese Cities of Opportunity report, jointly published by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the China Development and Research Foundation.

The report touted resilient cities whose governments made significant improvements in areas such as health care and disaster-response measures. It noted that top cities' effective risk responses and rapid recovery make them more attractive to investors.

Shanghai is forging ahead in its quest to become an alluring city featuring innovation, humanity and ecology, as well as to be a socialistic metropolis with global influence by 2035, according to the Communist Party of China Shanghai Committee's latest 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025).

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