CHAPTER SEVEN Hong Kong Vs. Shanghai
The Communist Party wants Shanghai to become "more like Hong Kong" and vice versa.
They want Hong Kong's economic boom but they don't want its free-wheeling mood.
They don't want the press freedom that existed in Britain's Colonial Hong Kong before the handover - and in pre-war international Shanghai.
The rulers of today's China certainly don't want the free press of Taiwan, which exhibit more freedom than any other Chinese press in the world.
Forget the hyperbolic premise being dispensed widely that Shanghai is about to take over from Hong Kong as China's leading financial center.
The predictions that such an eventuality will happen in "five or ten years" are the purest form of boosterism.
Make that "20 or 25 years" and you may have a bet, if all goes smoothly. But by that time, say by 2020, there will be plenty of business for both locations as Shanghai's sheer numbers will begin to prevail.
Today Shanghai has 15 million population, making it the world's fifth-largest city or "urban agglomeration" after Tokyo (25,518,000), New York, Sao Paulo and Mexico City. By 2015, according to United Nations projections, Tokyo will move to barely 28 million but Shanghai will jump to 23,400,000 to rank second contending with fast-growing Bombay (now called Mumbai), India.
Hong Kong at 6.3 million is a match only for its high productivity and what might be called intellectual infrastructure. Hong Kong's refinement as an information and service center, particularly for financial dealings, is awesome and for as long time it will be mentioned in the same breath with Tokyo, New York, London and Singapore, although there are many signs of cracks in its structure.
The jury is still out, of course on Asia's current financial crisis. Next to be hit may be China with its greatly over-valued Renminbi currency. Hong Kong's strength and importance is shown again: if the Hong Kong dollar peg to the U.S. dollar were ever dropped, China's new economy based on flotations on the Hong Kong stock market would go "poof."
That is one reason why the peg will remain for as long as possible.
Shanghai is just finishing the first infrastructure stage of its redevelopment. The impressive array of elevated highways eases traffic, to be sure, but also gives a stunning view of the emptiness of the literally hundreds of skyscrapers built on speculation or at government prodding or both.