views updated Jun 08 2018


Shanghai was not born in 1842 with the Nanjing Treaty that opened five Chinese port cities to foreign trade, nor in 1845 when the British were granted the right to establish a settlement (technically, "leased territory") in the outskirts of the walled city. For decades before these events, Shanghai had served as a major hub for trade between inland provinces and other port cities in China.

Located in the estuary of the Yangzi River, the main artery into inland China, Shanghai was connected to a vast hinterland through a dense network of rivers and canals that reached well into remote Sichuan Province 2,500 kilometers (about 1,550 miles) away. The Huangpu River that runs through the city provided a ready avenue both into the Yangzi River and Shanghai's surrounding area. In the foreign settlements, its bank—the Bund—became the place where westerners manifested their presence and power, with an impressive row of neocolonial-style multistoried buildings. With about 300,000 residents in the mid-nineteenth century, Shanghai was far from an empty land that awaited civilization from the outside.

There is no denying, however, that the inclusion of Shanghai into the extended trade routes that supplied Western countries with the materials and goods that their fast-growing economies consumed in increasing quantities changed the trajectory of the city. Initially, three groups of nationals obtained the right to open a settlement: British, American, and French. The first two merged their territory in 1863 to form the International Settlement, while the French, after some hesitation, eventually maintained their own autonomous concession. Both areas were repeatedly extended, up to 1914 when they reached their final limits. By that time, the two settlements had displaced the original walled city and its suburbs as the beating heart of Shanghai and its most populated section. Symbolically, but also to remove what was perceived as an obstacle to modernization, the local Chinese elites tore down the wall that confined the original city after China's 1911 revolution.

The population of Shanghai grew by leaps and bounds due to natural disasters, such as floods, but more often to wars and rebellions in the surrounding provinces. The Taiping Rebellion in the mid-1850s brought Shanghai's first wave of unwilling migrants. It marked the actual demographic takeoff of Shanghai. The internecine wars that raged between Chinese warlords in the 1920s, the 1931 Yangzi River flood, the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), and the civil war (1946–1949) all contributed to massive movements of population to Shanghai. Yet, population increase was also due to the growing attractiveness of the city. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Shanghai truly offered a "new frontier" that attracted all sorts of people from all over China, from poverty-driven peasants, to craftsmen and merchants. By the turn of the century, the emergence of a modern sector, both in industry and services (especially leisure), generated new waves of immigration. From half a million in 1852, the population of Shanghai jumped to 2 million in 1915, close to 4 million in 1937, and 5.5 million in 1948.

The change in population was not just quantitative. The establishment of the settlements brought migrants from a wide range of countries in the world, even if the larger communities came from Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. Yet, even with the Japanese that came to be Shanghai's largest foreign community by 1905, foreigners never represented a significant share of the population, ranging from a few thousand in the late nineteenth century to 150,000 at its peak in the 1940s. The Japanese alone formed a 100,000-strong community. Altogether, foreigners never represented more than 3.8 percent of Shanghai's total population. Nevertheless, by virtue of the privileges accorded in the treaties, foreigners enjoyed strong positions of power, at least formally, and benefited from conditions of life, even for the lower ranks of foreign residents, far better than in their home countries. The only foreigners who suffered from social debasement were the Russians who chose to flee the Bolshevik revolution and flocked in China's northeastern cities before moving to Shanghai. Deprived of diplomatic protection and extraterritorial rights, these Russian migrants struggled to make ends meet and by and large occupied menial jobs. In the late 1930s another group of Jewish refugees who had escaped Nazi persecution in Central Europe and Germany eventually settled in Shanghai. Because most of them had lost all resources, they also met a difficult fate until 1945.

The Land Regulations (1854) that defined the conditions for the establishment of settlements carried several provisions that foreigners took advantage of, especially in times of internal turmoil and the weakening of Chinese central power, to assert rights and powers far beyond those outlined in the original text. By virtue of the treaties, foreigners enjoyed extraterritorial rights that placed them beyond the reach of the Chinese legal and judicial system. In cases of misconduct or crime, foreigners were tried before their respective consular courts. But after the 1911 revolution, foreigners took full control of judicial administration, including the mixed courts where all Chinese residents were brought for civil and penal affairs.

By 1854, already, foreigners had taken over Shanghai's maritime customs, a major source of revenue for China. In the city proper, they set up their own municipal agencies: the Shanghai Municipal Council and the conseil (council) municipal in the International Settlement and French Concession respectively. When the Chinese organized their own local administrative bodies, first as elite-managed and district-based councils, then as a unified modern administration after 1927, the city ended up being administered by three different and unrelated municipal governments. This system was not dismantled until 1945.

The existence of foreign settlements in Shanghai created the conditions for the assertion of colonial power, though with limitations, but also an opportunity for complex games in politics, intellectual creativity, and social transformation. While formal power resided with Western institutions, the actual governance of the city relied very much on cooperation with local elites, especially the powerful Chinese merchant organizations that structured local society. Little could be achieved, in fact, without their support or against their will. Be it for tax matters, education, or in times of crisis and confrontation, foreigners had to deal with the Chinese representative organizations to implement a policy or to find a way out of a crisis.

Colonial power in Shanghai reached its limits with the existence of a well-organized polity within the broader context of a Chinese state that never lost its prerogatives and sovereignty, even with a weakened and at times powerless central administration. In other words, the system worked because both sides found it to its advantage to run a space that escaped the reach of a Chinese state perceived as predatory or simply unreliable.

Undoubtedly, Shanghai offered a place for great games. Chinese entrepreneurs benefited from an environment that was predictable in fiscal and legal matters. The protection afforded by the foreign settlements attracted a regular influx of capital that was available for investment in new economic ventures, especially industrial companies. The city developed sophisticated services that propelled it to the rank of first financial center in East Asia. Leisure and entertainment became not just a hallmark of Shanghai "glamour" but, in fact, an industry for its own sake on which thousands of people thrived.

From a plain commercial center in the mid-nineteenth century, Shanghai emerged as the major economic engine for the whole country, ranking first on all counts: industry, finance, and foreign trade. The wealth of the city, combined with the lack of strict controls on culture and education (except for political activism), also offered a breeding ground for the formation of a modern urban culture. Shanghai opened a whole new intellectual milieu that branched out in various directions with the creation of numerous modern schools and universities, the publication of a wide spectrum of journals and newspapers, the rise of a flourishing publication industry, the multiplication of associations of all sorts, and the broad circulation of new ideas among widening circles of the population. While still tainted with the suspicion of having been a Western Trojan horse in China, Shanghai played a major role in redefining the conditions of China's interaction with the outside world at the same time that it worked as a laboratory for the expression and construction of a modern Chinese society. After 1949 the city paid a dear price under the Communist regime, which literally milked Shanghai without making the necessary investments.

see also British American Tobacco Company; Chinese Revolutions; Compradors; Empire, Japanese; Extraterritoriality; Treaties, East Asia and the Pacific; Treaty Port System.


Bergère, Marie-Claire. The Golden Age of the Chinese Bourgeoisie. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Clifford, Nicholas R. Spoilt Children of Empire: Westerners in Shanghai and the Chinese Revolution of the 1920s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Goodman, Bryna. Native Place, City, and Nation: Regional Networks and Identities in Shanghai, 1853–1937. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Henriot, Christian. Prostitution in Shanghai. A Social History. Cambridge, U.K. and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Lu, Hanchao. Beyond the Neon Lights: Everyday Shanghai in the Early Twentieth Century, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Wakeman, Frederic Jr., Yeh, Wen-hsin, eds. Shanghai Sojourners. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.


views updated May 18 2018


Located at the outlet of the Yangzi River, about midpoint along China's coastline, Shanghai was established as a county seat in 1292. Cotton cultivation was introduced to the area around the same time, and by the eighteenth century Shanghai had become a booming "cotton town" renowned for its production and trade of nankeens and other cotton cloth. Trade routes extended from Shanghai to as far as Manchuria and Southeast Asia.

Shanghai was opened to the West in 1843 as one of the five treaty ports designated by the Treaty of Nanjing, which ended the Opium War (1839–1842). By the 1850s it had surpassed Canton (Guangzhou) in trade volumes. The Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs in Shanghai fell into British hands in 1854, which led to the customs system later coming under the supervision of Robert Hart (1835–1911) for nearly half a century. In the late nineteenth century trade in opium became the backbone of the city's commerce. Meanwhile, Shanghai became a major site of the Qing self-strengthening movement. The city quickly grew to be the center of China's modern manufacturing industry (shipbuilding, textiles, and others) as well as banking.

The main part of the city at the time consisted of foreign "concessions" where the British, French, and Americans held sway over the administration and effectively formed a virtual "state inside a state." While the Western domination infringed on Chinese sovereignty, it also provided a relatively safe zone for business and international trade in a China torn by war and revolution. Early in the twentieth century Shanghai had developed into China's largest and most advanced city. Modern enterprises, institutions, and professions mushroomed, and capitalists and compradors flourished. The Shanghai Chamber of Commerce was established in 1902 (reorganized in 1912) and became the most prominent business organization of its kind in the nation. During the republican period (1912–1949) the prosperity of Shanghai earned the city sobriquets such as "Paris of the East," "Paradise of Adventurers," and "China's New York." The city's business opportunities and cosmopolitanism attracted expatriates of more than thirty nationalities. Shanghai harbored more than 20,000 Jews who had fled from the Nazis, for the city was a free port that did not require an entrance visa. After the Japanese occupation of the city (1941–1945), the Chinese civil war broke out and Shanghai was taken over by the Communists in May 1949.

In terms of international trade, the three decades after the Communist Revolution witnessed the lowest point in Shanghai's modern history, due to the overall distrust of commerce under the Maoists. During that period Shanghai contributed about one-sixth of the central government's annual revenue—an enormous burden that impeded Shanghai's own development. In his "southern inspection tour" in 1992, Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) pushed the city to the forefront of reform by ordering the opening of Pudong New Area, a state-ofthe-art financial, high-tech, and trading center that has ignited new development in the region. After that Shanghai achieved a double-digit GDP growth rate for six consecutive years (1992–1997) and maintained a high economic growth rate thereafter. The average annual growth rate hit 9.4 percent during the period 1979 to 1997. By the late 1990s Shanghai handled more than one-fifth of China's total port cargo. At the turn of the twenty-first century, enterprises from more than eighty countries and regions around the world had invested in Shanghai, with Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, Germany, Singapore, Taiwan, Britain, and South Korea being the city's major trading partners.

SEE ALSO Agriculture; Alcock, Rutherford; Cargoes, Freight; Cargoes, Passenger; Chambers of Commerce; China; Compradors; Containerization;Deng Xiaoping; Empire, Japanese; Empire, Ming; Empire, Qing; EntrepÔt System; Free Ports; Guangzhou; Harbors; Hart, Robert;Hong Kong; Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank; Imperial Maritime Customs, China;Manchuria;Mitsui;Port Cities;Rice;Tea.


Bergère, Marie-Claire. The Golden Age of the Chinese Bourgeoisie, 1911–1937. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Coble, Parks M. Chinese Capitalists in Japan's New Order. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003.

Cochran, Sherman G., ed. Inventing Nanking Road: Commercial Culture in Shanghai, 1900–1945. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, East Asia Program, 1999.

Fairbank, John King. Trade and Diplomacy on the China Coast: The Opening of the Treaty Ports, 1842–1854. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1969.

Murphey, Rhoads. Shanghai: Key to Modern China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953.

Johnson, Linda Cooke. Shanghai: From Market Town to Treaty Port, 1074–1858. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.

Lu, Hanchao. Beyond the Neon Lights: Everyday Shanghai in the Early Twentieth Century. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.

Sergeant, Harriet. Shanghai: Collision Point of Culture, 1918–1939. New York: Crown Publishers, 1990.

Wakeman, Frederic, Jr. and Wen-hsin Yeh, eds. Shanghai Sojourners. Berkeley, CA: UC Berkley, Institute of East Asian Studies, 1992.

Yatsko, Pamela. New Shanghai: The Rocky Rebirth of China's Legendary City. New York: John Wiley, 2000.

Hanchao Lu


views updated Jun 11 2018


SHANGHAI , port in Kiangsu province, E. China. It was opened to foreign trade in 1843. A flourishing foreign community developed there, including Jews of various nationalities. They were mostly Sephardim from Baghdad, Bombay, and Cairo, including such well-known families as *Sassoon, *Kadoorie, Hardoon, *Ezra, Shamoon, and Baroukh. There were three synagogues in Shanghai, and between 1904 and 1939, 12 Jewish magazines in English, German, and Russian were founded there. The leading one was Israel's Messenger, a Zionist monthly established in 1904 by N.E.B. Ezra and published until his death in 1936. Before World War i the Jewish population numbered around 700, with 400 Sephardim of Baghdad origin, 250 Europeans, and 50 Americans. Most of them were engaged in commerce, while a few were in the diplomatic service and in medicine or teaching. Their number was substantially increased to around 25,000, first by Jews from Russia fleeing from the 1917 Revolution, then between 1932 and 1940 by refugees from Nazism in Germany and German occupied countries who found out that they could enter the free port of Shanghai without visas. The Japanese closed Shanghai to further immigration and after the outbreak of the Pacific war in December 1941 they deported to Shanghai most of the Jews living in Japan or in transit to other countries. Substantial aid was given locally, especially by Sir Victor Sassoon, Horace Kadoorie, and Paul Komor. Additional funds came from abroad. With the outbreak of the Pacific war, the position of all Jews became desperate. Most of them were kept in semi-internment under miserable conditions in the *Hongkew district, subject to the whim of the Japanese occupation forces. They had great difficulty in finding employment, and most of their property was confiscated under one pretext or another. Almost all of them left Shanghai after World War ii, largely with American help, for Israel, the United States, or other parts of the world. A few elderly people remained to live out their days under the Chinese Communists.

Hebrew Printing

Apart from J.J. Sulaiman's Kunteres Seder ha-Dorot (1921), the main period of Hebrew printing in Shanghai was during World War ii and immediately after (1940–46), when remnants of Lithuanian yeshivot (Mir, Slobodka), as well as Lubavitch Ḥasidim, found refuge in Shanghai and printed – mostly photostatically – rabbinic, ethical, and ḥasidic works in limited editions for their own use. To the 80 items enumerated by Z. Harkavy (in Ha-Sefer, no. 9, 1961, 52–3; Hashlamot le-Mafte'aḥ ha-Mafteḥot (by S. Shunami, 1966), 3–4) have to be added – at least – the above work by J.J. Sulaiman and S. Elberg's Akedat Treblinka (Yid., 1946). Hebrew newspapers were printed in Shanghai as early as 1904.


A. Ginsbourg, Jewish Refugees in Shanghai (Shanghai, 1940); A. Sopher, Chinese Jews (Shanghai, 1926); H. Dicker, Wanderers and Settlers in the Far East (1962), index; yivo, Catalogue of the Exhibition "Jewish Life in Shanghai" (1948); A. Mars, in: jsos, 31 (1969), 286–91.

[Rudolf Loewenthal]


views updated May 29 2018

shang·hai / ˈshangˌhī/ • v. (-hais , -haied / -ˌhīd/ , -hai·ing / -ˌhī-ing/ ) [tr.] hist. force (someone) to join a ship lacking a full crew by drugging them or using other underhanded means. ∎ inf. coerce or trick (someone) into a place or position or into doing something: Brady shanghaied her into his Jaguar and roared off.


views updated May 29 2018

Shanghai City-port in se China, 22km (13mi) from the Yangtze (Changjiang) delta, the largest city in China. By the Treaty of Nanking (1842), Shanghai opened to foreign trade, stimulating economic growth. The USA, Britain, France, and Japan all held their own areas of the city. Occupied by the Japanese in 1937, it returned to China at the end of World War 2, and fell to the communists in 1949. Industries: textiles, steel, chemicals, publishing, rubber products, farm machinery, shipbuilding, financial services. Pop. (1999) 8,937,175.


views updated May 14 2018

shanghai force (someone) to join a ship lacking a full crew by drugging them or using other underhand means; more widely, coerce or trick (someone) into a place or position or into doing something. The term is recorded from the late 19th century, and is taken from the name of Shanghai, a port on the east coast of China, which was opened for trade with the west in 1842.


views updated May 29 2018

shanghai (naut. sl., orig. U.S.) render insensible and ship on board a vessel wanting hands (perh. orig. one destined for Shanghai). XIX. f. Shanghai, name of a Chinese seaport.