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

The establishment of Shanghai Special City settled down the Shanghai Chine Section and provided a relatively stable situation for city development after the war period. However, the administration power had been occupied by the foreign colonizers for a long time. Though the Nationalist Government of Republic of China took back the power in jurisdiction and education, the economic issues stepped into their way.[1] The Chinese section and the foreign settlements were competing in space and resources. Spatially, the foreign settlements obstructed the connection between north and south part of Shanghai. The spatial division led to uneven distribution of workforce and resources. Moreover, the foreign settlements continuously expanded its border and built roads through these years which made the separation severer.[2]

Shanghai was one of the richest city in China and went through rapid economic development during the 1920s. Unfortunately, Shanghai was shocked by the economic crisis in the late 1930s. Foreign capital shifted the economic crisis to colonies and half-colonies. As a result, Shanghai economy was greatly affected by the commodity dumping. Factories, retail shops and banks were closed. Large amount of workers lost their jobs. While the government was trying to revitalize Shanghai’s economy and parallel the achievement that the foreign settlements made, in terms of taxation and revenues, the government wasn’t comparable with the foreign settlements which had controlled the economy and resources since the first day they settled. For example, in 1927, the taxation income of Shanghai special city government was only 3744000 Chinese Yuan which was 1/4 of the concessions’ which was about 15610898 Chinese Yuan.[3] The significant difference was caused by the uneven land value and its taxation since the land in the foreign settlements was much higher than the Chinese Sections. Also, most of the ports and the taxation along with were under control by the foreign settlements. The deprivation from Nanking Government on taxation issues also led to the declination of Shanghai’s economy. The Nanking government applied two level tax and strengthened their control on salt tax, custom duty, wine and tobacco tax, income tax, stamp duty, parcel tax etc.[4] The economic issues of the city government hindered the city development since the insufficient money wasn’t helpful when plenty of bridges and buildings that lacked maintenance for years collapsed in the city. The Greater Shanghai Plan was created under such urgent situation and poor economic condition.

The fact that the authority was losing control of the economic issues reflected the diminishing power of the city government among. Therefore, in order to retake its power and reestablish its image among the people, the Greater Shanghai Plan which was led by the Shanghai Special City government was involved with huge amount of effort in the construction of administration center. This could be seen when the plan was carried out in terms of the construction sequence and the money flow.[5] While eventually the plan wasn’t completely fulfilled, every single building standing on the vast land solely was a declaration of the government’s ambition. The determination of bringing back the prosperity of the Shanghai and gradually exceeding the development level of the foreign settlement was the major incentives of Greater Shanghai Plan.







[1] 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), 46

[2] 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

[3] Shanghai Special City Government上海特别市政府, Shanghai Shi Zheng Gai Yao《上海市政概要》, (Shanghai Guji Press, 上海古籍出版社, 2003), 195-197

[4] Yu Baotang 虞宝棠, Guo Min Zheng Fu Yu Guo Min Jing Ji《国民政府与国民经济》, (East China Normal University Press 华东师范大学出版社,1998), 19

[5] 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), 46

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

  1. It is important for us to understand the economic background behind the Greater Shanghai Plan and the motivation that Shanghai government wants to promote economy again and retake its power. The poor economic condition may also explain why the Greater Shanghai Plan failed to be fully achieved.
    You mentioned that the Chinese section and the foreign settlements were competing in space and resources.It would be interesting to reflect in Greater Shanghai Plan that how the authority try to scramble for more space and resources through a new planning.

    • It’s true that the one of the incentives for shanghai city government was to regain its status among the people and hopefully the foreign settlement areas could be assimilated into the city plan gradually. This could be related to the blog about transportation system. The road network developed by the government resembles to the foreign settlement, which possibly could build some connections in between. Truly, most parts of the plan were competing with foreign settlement. Some planned roads width was even wider than the widest road in the foreign settlement. Nevertheless, the blueprint was too difficult to achieve because of the economic issues and eclecticism embedded within the urban planners, which foresees the failure of the plan.

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