Essays In Asia: New Shanghai
Shanghai, located in the Yangtze River Delta in East China, grew in importance in the 19th century due to trade, a favorable port location, and economic potential. The city was one of five treaty ports forced open to foreign trade following the Birtish victory over China in the first Opium War.
New Shanghai, the tilte of this project, is described as the showpiece of the booming economy of mainland China and the most populous city proper in the world. It is one of the four direct-controlled municipalities of the People's Republic of China, with a population of more than 24 million. Due to rapid urbanization, the persistent population growth and uneven distibution of people acorss the city is a growing concern. The population density in some central districts is more than 24,000 people per square kilometer, while the density in the subarbs is 60% less compared to the central districts. The influx of people are migrants from other provinces in search of more opportunities and higher wages. However, migrant residents are facing a widening welfare gap as well as inequality in employment opportunites between them and Shanghai natives.
The photographs, in this subsequent series, are taken in the Longtang neighborhoods, or Longdang in Shanghainese. A Longtang refers to a community of houses centered on several interconnected lanes of residential units built in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Most of these neighborhoods were demolished when Shanghai started to urbanize in the 1980's, replacing the niehgborhoods with tower blocks at a rate of four per day; producing 2 billion square meters of new development per year. Until all old buildings in Shanghai disappear, it will remain a city of contrast, of modern architecture mixed with reminders of the city's past. Recently though, local governments have placed about 200 of the old neighborhoods on a preservation list, and some buildings have been marked for renovation as Shanghai prepares to submit them for UNESCO world-heritage status.