Pudong leads development of both Shanghai and China

Wan Lixin
The opening up of Pudong 34 years ago was proclaimed at a historical juncture in 1990 when the whole world was taking notice of China and its direction.
Wan Lixin
Pudong leads development of both Shanghai and China

Former Expo Park – Qiantan area

Although this year marks the 34th anniversary of Pudong New Area's first opening-up as an economic zone in 1990, the area on the East of the Huangpu River is never of short of new drive to reinvent itself, and to reach for new heights in its breathtaking development.

Although Pudong's past 34 years are undoubtedly prominent in China's era of reforms and opening up since 1978, the city of Shanghai, not to say Pudong, was fairly recent. Unlike a myriad of Chinese cities which could easily trace their history to millennia past, the mother river of Shanghai, the Huangpu River, can be dated as recently as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Even then, it was mostly a marshy farmland, including what is today the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, which is known for its iconic skyline and is home to some of the most well-known global corporations.

The opening up of Pudong was proclaimed at a historical juncture in 1990 when the whole world was taking notice of China and its direction, at a time when the city of Shanghai, China's industrial powerhouse, was in the doldrums. This was a result of beleaguered traditional industries, and an overcrowded metropolis, but the city retained a formidable legacy of a labor force known for its dedication, efficiency, can-do attitude, and entrepreneurial acumen.

Pudong leads development of both Shanghai and China

Pudong New Area has 150 urban and rural parks, with an average green space area of 13.3 square meters per person.

When this latent labor force was incentivized, we were in for more than three decades of spectacular economic vigor that was nothing short of miraculous, and became part and parcel of the legendary China growth.

The phenomenal growth of Pudong has been a result of meticulous planning, masterfully conceived and excellently executed, in several stages.

The first stage, lasting from 1990 to 2000, was spearheaded by initiatives in planning, infrastructure development, and finance – during the early years of opening up the area, like the rest of the country, was plagued by a crippling lack of funds.

The second stage, from 2001 to 2011, was associated with comprehensive reform initiatives in Pudong, and the absorption of the former Nanhui District (a mammoth in its own right) into Pudong New Area in 2009, which afforded the area new room for development. During this time, the city successfully hosted World Expo Shanghai in 2010, which was mostly held in Pudong and attracted 70 million visitors from all over the world.

The third stage has been dominated by the implementation of two state strategies.

Pudong leads development of both Shanghai and China

Shanghai Disneyland

The first was the launching of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in 2013, which was expanded in 2015, and then in 2019, when the Lingang section of FTZ was added.

The second is the area's ambition to become an influential global leader in science, technology, and innovation.

Given the central government's staunch support for Pudong's opening up, Shanghai authorities have since issued detailed plans to implement high-standard trade rules in the FTZ to promote trade liberalization and facilitation to align the zone with the highest international standards.

Thanks to concerted efforts at trailblazing opening up initiatives, the area is already an undisputed leader in several categories.

As a financial hub, it accounts for two-thirds of all licensed financial institutions in the city. Among some of the latest initiatives is the implementation of a number of innovative financial regulatory practices that could be tried in the FTZ.

Since then, foreign financial institutions have been proactive in strengthening their Chinese presence and operations in the FTZ.

In foreign trade, the area accounted for 59 percent of the city's total, boasting a hefty 2.6 trillion yuan (US$359 billion) in foreign trade in 2023.

In technology and innovation, the number of foreign invested research and development centers already accounts for nearly half of the total in the city.

Pudong's phenomenal development has become a byword for the development of not only the city, but of China as a whole.

It is beyond doubt that with emancipation in our thinking, with passion and great daring, this iconic new area will continue to be a pioneer at the forefront of China's reform and opening up, providing fresh impetus to the city, and inspiring other Chinese cities to follow suit.

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