Transformed from a regional market town into the fastest-growing city on earth in the wake of the First Opium War in the 1840s, Shanghai was built by British, French, and American imperialists to look just like home. Today, the city’s former foreign concessions still boast tree- and café-lined boulevards to rival Paris and a Jazz Age skyline like a Gershwin-era Manhattan frozen in amber.
Today, as its Communist authorities reclaim Shanghai’s historic mantle as “the Wall Street of Asia,” the city is undergoing a tremendous building spree. With bullet trains shooting into the future and a government stuck in the last century, Shanghai embodies all the promise and contradictions of twenty-first-century China.
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