political culture in Shanghai

Shanghai is China’s First City. Shanghai in the past and present holds the key to China’s transformation to a modern society. It is the first and probably the only Chinese city that wholeheartedly embraced Western ideas, practices and institutions. Western powers seized and built the city after 1843, when the Manchu dynasty signed yet another so-called unequal treaty with the Western powers.
In Shanghai, the Chinese first experienced all the amenities of a modern city, such as electricity, gas, running water, cable car and, later, automobile. It was in Shanghai that modern press, periodicals, publishing houses, motion pictures, theatres and other Western performing arts made their debut. Shanghai gave birth to China’s first classes of capitalists and modern literary intellectuals. As a result of all this, Shanghai became the centre of the constitutional monarchy movement of 1900–10. After the founding of the Republic of China in 1911, Shanghai took the lead in the federalist movement in the early 1920s. Reformers from interior provinces, where conservatism was deeply entrenched, used Shanghai to propagate their causes. Periodical literature from Shanghai contributed significantly to the intellectual revolution of the May Fourth movement in 1919. To prominent Chinese and Westerners, Shanghai and its surrounding region were the ideal place to build a new Chinese republic.
From 1949 to 1976, Mao terminated Shanghai’s links with the West, confiscated Shanghai’s industrial and human resources, and then scattered these in the interior.
But Mao had exploited the residuals of Shanghai’s former avant-gardism by launching his Cultural Revolution in Shanghai between 1966 and 1969. Ultimately, Mao left behind an inward-looking and dilapidated Shanghai. Since the early 1980s, however, Shanghai steadily regained its pre-Communist status as the centre of libertarian ideas. Reformers across the nation used Shanghai media to advocate views such as the obsoleteness of Marxism, the supremacy of the Party Congress instead of the Party centre (head of the CCP and the Politiburo), the redefinition of the Party character as a ruling rather than a revolutionary party (so as to base the Party’s legitimacy on performance), and the illegality of military interference in the political process. It is noteworthy that after the Democracy Wall movement in 1979, the most prominent Chinese newspaper calling for a market economy and democracy was the Shanghai journal World Economic Herald (Shijie jingji daobao).
After his celebrated southern excursion in 1992 (see Southern Excursion Talks (Deng Xiaoping, 1992)), Deng Xiaoping copied Mao’s practice of using Shanghai’s former cultural status for his own political purposes. First, Beijing invested substantially in the Pudong district of Shanghai, hoping to turn it into the fifth ‘tiger’ in Asia (after Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore). Second, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin designated Shanghai as the national model in transforming state-owned enterprises into modern corporations and accomplishing Deng’s idea of a socialist spiritual civilization. Shanghai may finally realize its historic role as ‘the leading sheep’ (daitouyang) of Chinese modernization.
Yang, Mayfair Mei, Hui (1997). ‘Mass Media and Transnational Subjectivity in Shanghai: Notes on (Re)cosmopolitanism in a Chinese Metropolis’. In Aiwha Ong and Donald Nonini (eds), Ungrounded Empires: The Cultural Politics of Modern Chinese Transnationalism. New York: Routledge, 287–319.
Yeung, Y.M. and Sung, Yun-wing (eds) (1996). Shanghai. Transformation and Modernization under China’s Open Policy. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.
ALAN P.L.LIU

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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