Shanghai (1927-1937) / Political background of the Greater Shanghai Plan

By 1920s, Shanghai has already developed into the largest and wealthiest city of China. In the time of Republican China, the government was well aware of the importance and potential of Shanghai as commercial center and modernized cosmopolis[1]. And as the government was trying to cripple the economic and political significance of Peking, Shanghai was a favoured choice for the experiment of constructing modern city. However the unbalanced developing level between the concession and Chinese part together with the lack of comprehensive urban planning left this modern city in very serious ‘urban diseases’. This post will look into the historical background in the perspective of the government covering topics including the challenges it was facing and its political intention behind the Greater Shanghai Plan. Among the challenges, some social issues will be touched as well, but it might not overlap with the content in the post of social background as that post will concentratedly study the competition between the Concession and the Chinese part of Shanghai.

(There’s a link to a short video giving a brief but comprehensive introduction to the Greater Shanghai Plan: http://www.kankanews.com/a/2012-05-10/0011152254.shtml)

The Greater Shanghai Plan was proposed and launched in the ephemeral peaceful period internationally and domestically. From the founding of the Republic of China in 1912 to the establishment of the Nanking Republic Government in 1927, Shanghai was generally under the ruling of warlords. Municipal construction was carried out partly by civil groups in a scattered manner. Due to the constant shift of ruler and the chaotic administrative system, governmental effort in urban renovation was either passive or unsuccessful during this period.[2] So the founding of Shanghai Special City (上海特别市) by the Nanking Government is a remarkable event because that for the first time a united and integrated government took the control of Shanghai after the perishing of Qing Dynasty. Besides the relatively stable political condition within the country, the cooling period after the First World War provide a rather favorable external environment though the economic crisis across the sea had already started to influence Shanghai[3]. Furthermore, the ending of the First World War brought about a shuffle of power within the concession. The union among the western countries was broken with the weakening of Germany’s power and the antagonizing of Austria and Hungary[4]. All the turbulence happened within the concession slowed down its urban renovation and in an sense gave the Chinese part of Shanghai an chance to catch up.

 

Under this political circumstance, the Greater Shanghai Plan was initiated out of two major reasons– the urgency for infrastructure development and the aspiration to gain a more comprehensive political control on Shanghai by all who has once ruled this city. These two factors serving as the bottom-up impetus and top-down guideline integratedly make an whole-scale urban renovation imperative.

 

Before the whole-scale urban planning was launched, Shanghai was experiencing all the ‘urban diseases’ happened in the western cities in the process of becoming mega cities. First, the capacity of the harbor was reaching its limit with severe silt lodging problem. The facility of the harbor as well as the corresponding transportation system was poorly developed[5]. Therefore the potential for further commercial activities was limited. Second, mass population and the contaminant density problem drastically deteriorate the living environment and life quality in both concession and the Chinese town[6]. The third problem is the transportation issue. There was no coherence between the roads of Concessions and Chinese towns. At the same time, water and electricity supply was designed and constructed separately[7]. And finally, no long-term urban planning and passive responding system to urban issues made the all the mentioned issues exacerbate through time[8]. Therefore, developing the infrastructure was really an urgent issue for the government to tackle.

 

Besides satisfying the need of the public in the aspect of infrastructure construction, all the rulers through time know that urban renovation means power. From Qing government to the warlords and finally the Nanking Republican government, attention was paid to all the urban issues and attempts were made to carry out large-scale redevelopment. Apart from the competition between Chinese town and the concession, which will be detailedly discussed in the post of social environment, there’s other political consideration behind those attempts. Through the Greater Shanghai Plan, the Republican government was trying to erect a image of a reliable and capable government that was widely accepted and advocated by the public. By initiating and administering a large-scale urban redevelopment, the government intends to claim its authority on Shanghai and convey the message that it has the ability to guide the Chinese part to surpass the concession[9].

 

 

Endnotes

[1] Sun Yet-sum孙中山, Jian Guo Fang Lue《建国方略》, ( Huaxia Press华夏出版社, 2002), 149.

[2] Wei Shu魏枢, <The Greater Shanghai Plan> Qi Shi Lu—Jin Dai Shanghai Hua Jie Du Shi Zhong Xin Kong Jian Xing Tai De Liu Bian《大上海计划》启示录——近代上海华界都市中心空间形态的流变, (Southeast University Press 东南大学出版社, 1995), 38

[3] Tang Zhenchang唐振常, History of Shanghai《上海史》, (Shanghai Renmin Press上海人民出版社,1989), 530-540, 670-679

[4] Dillon, Nara, and Jean Chun Oi, eds. At the crossroads of empires: middlemen, social networks, and state-building in Republican Shanghai. (Stanford University Press, 2008),

[5] Introduction by O. M. Green, Shanghai of Today, (Kelly & Walsh limited,1928), 11

[6] Bai Jier白吉尔, The history of Shanghai: the way to modern上海史:走向现代之路, (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press出版社, 2005), 180.

[7] H. F. Wilkins, Shanghai Outgrowing Itself (The Far Eastern Review, 1927), 450.

[8] Shanghai Shi Zhongxin Quyu Jianshe Weiyuanhui 上海市中心区域建设委员会, Jian She Shanghai Shi Shi Zhong Xin Qu Yu Ji Hua Shu 建设上海市市中心区域计划书, (Shanghai, 1930), 12.

[9] Wei Shu魏枢, <The Greater Shanghai Plan> Qi Shi Lu—Jin Dai Shanghai Hua Jie Du Shi Zhong Xin Kong Jian Xing Tai De Liu Bian《大上海计划》启示录——近代上海华界都市中心空间形态的流变, (Southeast University Press 东南大学出版社, 1995), 51

 

 

Bibliography

  1. Bai Jier白吉尔, The history of Shanghai: the way to modern上海史:走向现代之路, Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press出版社, 2005.
  2. Dillon, Nara, and Jean Chun Oi, Eds. At the crossroads of empires: middlemen, social networks, and state building in Republican Shanghai. California: Stanford University Press, 2008.
  3. F. Wilkins, Shanghai Outgrowing Itself , The Far Eastern Review, 1927.
  4. Introduction by O. M. Green, Shanghai of Today, Sweden: Kelly & Walsh limited, 1928.
  5. Shanghai Shi Zhong Xin Qu Yu Jian She Wei Yuan Hui 上海市中心区域建设委员会, Jian She Shanghai Shi Shi Zhong Xin Qu Yu Ji Hua Shu 建设上海市市中心区域计划书, Shanghai, 1930.
  6. Sun Yet-sum孙中山, Jian Guo Fang Lue《建国方略》, Huaxia Press华夏出版社, 2002.
  7. Tang Zhenchang唐振常, History of Shanghai《上海史》, Shanghai Renmin Press上海人民出版社,1989.
  8. Wei Shu魏枢, <The Greater Shanghai Plan> Qi Shi Lu—Jin Dai Shanghai Hua Jie Du Shi Zhong Xin Kong Jian Xing Tai De Liu Bian《大上海计划》启示录——近代上海华界都市中心空间形态的流变, Southeast University Press 东南大学出版社, 1995.

2 Comments on “Shanghai (1927-1937) / Political background of the Greater Shanghai Plan

    • We had this discussion before and agreed that there’s certain overlapping between these two topics. These two posts trying to investigated political and social context behind the Greater Shanghai Plan separately are actually approaching the this historic topic from two different angles. In this post, I was trying to see in the government’s perspective. The density and population problems were the issue for them to tackle with political action. And in the post of social background, the author mainly focuses on the ideology and its manifestation to surpass the concession in the whole Chinese society instead of the government only.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.