Looking back at a district: Minhang's evolution over 30 years
A new Minhang District appeared in Shanghai in 1992 through a combination of the old district and Shanghai County. That year was also when the 14th National Congress of the Communist Party of China set up its market-oriented economy road map and quickened its steps in opening up the country to the outside world.
The district has changed tremendously, both economically and socially, in the past three decades. In particular, in the past decade since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, it has morphed from a mostly rural suburb of Shanghai into an urbanized city zone.
Self-funded Metro extension
On May 28, 1993, Shanghai residents witnessed something new: the opening of traffic on the southern section of Metro Line 1 – Shanghai's first Metro line – from Jinjiang Amusement Park to downtown Xujiahui.
People rushed to take the subway, more out of curiosity than for commuting. The just-established new Minhang District government, however, saw in it a big potential. It decided to introduce the Metro to Minhang.
In December 1994, construction of Metro Line 1 southern extension from Jinjiang Amusement Park to Xinzhuang Town, where the new district government's office is located, started. The district government joined hands with Shanghai Metro Group, and financed part of the total 620-million yuan (US$86.4 million) construction fund. It also covered the cost for housing demolition and relocation.
"We had an urgent project time limit then. We didn't even have time to build quarters for temporary workers. So we borrowed some plastic sheds from farmers to use as our workers' house," Shen Huashan, former chief engineer of Minhang Urban Construction Investment Co, recalled.
On December 28, 1996, the southern extension of Shanghai Metro Line 1 opened. The 4.65-kilometer extension greatly reduced the time and physical distance between Minhang and downtown Shanghai.
Thus, living and working in Minhang slowly became a trend. Population rose and industry and commerce prospered.
In 2003, the district made another daring resolution by self-funding the Metro Line 5 light rail, the first of its kind in China.
Enjoying a better life
On September 1, 250,000 primary and secondary students in Minhang welcomed their new semester.
He Xuefeng, headmaster of Minhang Experimental Primary School, pinned school badges on the students' uniform and blessed them.
Such an inauguration ceremony took place at four campuses of the primary school, which, with its total of more than 6,800 students, ranks first citywide in terms of student number.
"Our school and every school affiliated to our education group have been acknowledged by Minhang residents," said He.
The primary school is a microcosm of Minhang's education development.
By August this year, the district had seven education groups that administered more than 400 elementary schools. It has been awarded the National Smart Education Model Zone, the only district in Shanghai with the honor.
In addition to its education, the district has turned into a better place for living from multiple aspects.
The district's realty sector has developed in tandem with the continuous population migration from downtown to the suburbs. Its total residential space reached 96.73 million square meters in 2021, over four times of that in 1993. Minhang's average residential space per person rose to 36.4 square meters in 2021 from 9.4 square meters in 1993.
In the medical service sector, with Huashan Hospital's Hongqiao Branch opening in April 2021, the district now has eight 3A, 3B and 3C hospitals. Its New Hongqiao International Medical Center has ranked top for its community health-care service. Major health indexes of Minhang residents are on par with developed countries and regions in the world.
The district is also improving its employment and social insurance system, while strengthening its elderly care service. Its residents' per capita disposable income in 2021 surpassed 80,000 yuan.
Minhang now has 126 parks and its park land and green space per capita has reached 10.65 square meters. Its forest coverage rate is 18.3 percent.
In 2020 the district reaped the National Civilized City award.
The Sensor Space Cafe at the Grand neoBay in the south of Minhang is jokingly said to offer the most valuable coffee in the district – quite a few startup teams draw their first finance through drinking a cup of coffee with investors here.
The Grand neoBay, relying on its location adjacent to top universities like Shanghai Jiao Tong University and East China Normal University, and a mature incubation system, has paved the way for many sci-tech achievements for their "ivory tower break."
"We are gradually making the innovation and entrepreneurship ecology surrounding the university better, so that ideas and sci-tech fruits of students and teachers can contribute to the progress of the entire region," said Zhang Zhigang, an associate professor of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and general manager of Shanghai neoBay Venture Capital Co.
"An innovation and entrepreneurship ecology that is open to and closely linked with the university is a must."
The neoBay now has morphed from a single incubation building to a sci-tech hotbed to cover about 17 square kilometers.
In August 2022, Shanghai government approved a construction plan to build the Grand neoBay into a global "sci-tech bay" with competitiveness.
Echoing the quick development of the neoBay in the south of Minhang is a "gate" that will unfold Minhang to the entire world.
On February 18, 2021, the State Council, China's cabinet, approved the "Hongqiao International Hub General Construction Plan," which aims to develop the Hongqiao area from a former business zone into an international hub and make it a propellant for the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region.
The Hongqiao International Hub Minhang Section will cover 48 square kilometers. Its key 3.7-square-kilometer central business district has been completed and is now in operation. The general plan and housing relocation of its 30-square-kilometer Qianwan area is nearing completion.
Thirty years on, Minhang is still marching on, to achieve a balanced development of its northern, central, southern and eastern regions.