Shanghai: The City of Dreams :Part 1

To Magic or Not to Magic ?
June 13, 2019
26 year mega development of Shanghai

Shanghai Business School have brought together some of the sharpest minds of the developing world at its 2018 Seminar on Infrastructure Development and Construction featuring personalities from the Caribbean and Latin America, Uzbekistan, Africa and Russia. After spending one month in July 2018 in the Eastern continent, a global perspective on the local challenges faced in our small Caribbean Island tends to provide creative solutions where there was once walls.

Centred on Shanghai’s 26 year mega development drive and success in all forms of infrastructure, best practices were shared with participant countries that hailed from Africa, Uzbekistan, Latin America and the Caribbean. The Seminar focused mainly on Engineering Best Practices in Bridge, Port, Information Technology and Rail Transit Infrastructure. 

Shanghai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world moving at a rate of 3.65 % per annum between 2000 and 2010 and currently has a population of 24.5 Million people over a city size of roughly 6400 sqkm. Put this in comparison to Trinidad’s size of 1.1 Million people over a square area of 5400 sqkm.

Its growth in population is only rivalled by its economic growth which has seen it as high as 6.8% over the last three quarters of 2015 and an overall output of 2.5 trillion Yuan led by their service sector. The finance sub sector leads the way here with output of 405 Billion Yuan owing to favourable stock market environments.

Its manufacturing and industrial sectors are not far behind with six key industries being IT, steel, automobiles, refinery, biomedicine and machinery. Housing sales also experienced a boost moving upwards by 16.6 % and creating close to 600,000 new jobs on the market.

The city’s total trade exceeded 2.8 trillion Yuan with foreign direct investment rising by 1.6% to 18.4 Billion Yuan by year end 2015. (Yanlin 2016)

Shanghai is a very international city aimed at demonstrating its attractive, modern and comfortable city centre and life which is ideally suited to the fast paced millenials eager to impress themselves on a new, vibrant, changing world. The city also is one ready to compete for talent, investments and business as it boasts top class service, infrastructure and lifestyles tailored for the modern world.

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Shanghai’s deep water port and causeway makes it one of the premier logistics destinations in the world proving itself as a key partner in modern trade the world over. This approach was further deepened in the launch and massive growth of the One Belt One Road Initiative that has seen the development of a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and a Silk Road Economic Belt stretching from China to Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Its five major goals are policy coordination,facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-people bonds.

The initiative was launched by China’s President Xi Jingping in 2013 and to date has saw close to 86 Bn USD worth of projects being executed in that region.(SEE 2017) 

Trinidad and Tobago , on May 14, 2018 is the first country from the Caribbean to sign on to the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative which seeks to improve trade between nations through five main pillars. The Silk Road is an ancient path of caravan routes that linked the civilisations of Asia, Europe and Africa together through common trade. In September 2013, Xi Xingping raised the initiative of building one belt and one road to regenerate the spirit of the Silk Road in the 21st century. “China steps forward with this initiative promoting openness, and outward-looking policies, building bridges not walls, advocating more contact and cooperation among peoples, more trade, more investment, and seeking to create a rising tide of prosperity which will lift all boats, all around the world.” Terrance Farell, Trinidad’s noted economist said it well in describing the nature of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative which seeks to expand its nation’s wealth through ‘win-win’ partnerships with the global market via five areas of connection: Policy, Trade and Investment, Infrastructure, Finance and People-People.(Farell 2017)

Farell went on to stress the importance of the Infrastructure Pillar:

“Infrastructure  Connectivity is perhaps the best recognised of the five pillars because it has been the most visible.” Trinidad and Tobago celebrates 45 years of diplomatic relations with China in 2019, a history that is rich with varied forms of partnerships and infrastructural development in Trinidad supported by China and its resources. Several Chinese developers such as Shanghai Construction Group, China Railway Construction Company and Sino-Hydro Construction Engineering Company Limited all have participated in developing varied forms of infrastructure in Trinidad totalling over 6 Billion TTD. A State visit was held by Xi Jingping himself in 2013 where he identified Trinidad and Tobago as a country of great influence in the Caribbean, following which an embassy was set up for Trinidad and Tobago in Beijing. During Trinidad and Tobago’s official visit to China in May 2018, great strides were made in securing agreement on the charted way forward between the two nations. China affirmed its support to Trinidad and Tobago in its president being “willing to align the Belt and Road Initiative with T&T’s domestic development strategy and push forward bilateral cooperation in building infrastructure, energy, finance and agriculture” (Xi 2018) and this sentiment was echoed by China’s premier Li Keqiang in his “willingness to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Trinidad and Tobago and also to deepen longstanding ties.” (Keqiang 2018) The OBOR had 68 countries signed on to it in 2016 all along the old Silk Road. Trinidad and Tobago became the first country from the Caribbean to sign on to the OBOR in May 2018. This cements the nature of the partnership between the two regions as progression is made towards the ‘One World’ concept.

This one world concept is one rooted deeply in Chinese principles and was promoted at opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2015 in Boao, south China’s Hainan Province. Here, President Xi expressed the need for everyone to remember that “we have only one planet, and countries share one world”. The win-win principle is also one that opposes ‘beggar thy neighbour’ trade policies that trigger and sustain trade wars. It also directly opposes globalisation and mutual growth of nations in a closed environment of zero sum rules.

“Only through win-win cooperation can we make big and sustainable achievements that are beneficial to all. The old mind-set of zero-sum game should give away to a new approach of win-win and all-win cooperation” (Xi 2015)

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Shanghai has been home to some of the largest mega projects that have served the society’s infrastructure needs , one of the main ones being the Donghai Bridge that connects the Xiaoyangshan Island with the Shanghai area costing the Chinese Government 6.94 Billion TTD. While the value may seem high, one can’t help but wonder if the application of same would have significant value to a twin island such as Trinidad and Tobago where the separation of the two islands is approximately 35 km which was the approximate length of the Donghai Bridge (32.5km).

With the current challenges facing the sea bridge between both our countries, it is food for thought to fully investigate the feasibility of this concept while comparing it to the benefits of connecting our southwestern tip to our much larger neighbours in Venezuela.

This will be coming in Part 2 of the City of Dreams

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