Buckle up and enjoy the ride as Shanghai rockets into the future

As far as development goes, you really can't get any quicker than the kind China, and Shanghai in particular, have experienced over the past few decades, and it's not over yet!

Shanghai really started to boom in the 1840s when the city was opened up its port.

As far as breakneck development goes, you really can’t get any quicker than the kind China, and Shanghai in particular, has experienced over the past few decades.

While Shanghai has always had a role to play in the area, it really started to boom in 1842 when the city opened up its port.

Then things exploded after China launched the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, in many ways seeing Shanghai become a kind of illustration of the whole country’s massive and super-fast development.

If you thought Shanghai’s growth spurt was over, you’d be sorely mistaken. The city continues to rocket into the future at a seemingly faster rate than most other places on the planet.

The Shanghai government recently announced its 2035 master plan, which aims to see it become “a city of innovation, humanism, and ecology, with a global influence.”

That means many things, one of which is that the city is ramping up efforts to see Shanghai become an innovative world leader in new technologies. Preparations have already begun in earnest.

Construction has begun on a flurry of high-tech projects in north Shanghai’s Baoshan District, covering areas like new-energy vehicles and robotics. These projects will take place in areas usually set aside for older industries like steel and glass manufacturing.

Across town in the Linfen Road Community in Jing’an District, digital sensors are being installed as part of a prototype project which will collect data and warn residents and business owners when things go wrong or need attention. 

The sensors will be installed everywhere from restaurant kitchens to sewerage systems to roads, notifying the relevant people when fires start, drains approach overflow, or cars park illegally.

Sensors are even being installed to monitor the health of the community’s hundred-odd residents over the age of 80.

You’ve probably also heard about Shanghai’s very first driverless Metro trains which are in the final stages of testing and should be open to the public very, very soon.

Can you imagine that? Getting on a subway train with no driver, which is completely controlled remotely? You won’t have to imagine it soon!

I’m excited about having a ride but, to be honest, I’ll probably wait a few months.

I can’t even imagine development happening at such a fast and exciting pace back in my home country of New Zealand, mainly because most projects need to first go through massive public consultation processes and stand up against the myriad opinions of ordinary people — usually with no professional knowledge or background in the relevant field.

There are just too many chefs in the kitchen!

That’s definitely one of the downsides of democracy: The crippling of most development and the fact that most projects that do make it out the other end are hugely watered down, limp versions of the original plans.

One case in point is an elevated roadway the Wellington City Council wanted to build that they argued would reduce the hideous traffic congestion that clogs up around the southern-hemisphere’s largest roundabout, the Basin Reserve. (Wellington city has a population of only 63,900, yet it’s not uncommon to be stuck in traffic for half an hour or more before and after work.)

The project was dogged with protests and appeals and challenges from the public for around five years, seeing it finally crashing and burning and the status quo remaining.

People’s biggest concern: The road would be a bit of an “eye-sore.”

I guess that’s why I’m so excited about the speed and excitement Shanghai and China are propelling through before my very eyes. I’m so lucky to be a part of it.


Shanghai's maglev train is the fastest commercial high-speed electric train in the world.

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