Reflections on our Week in Shanghai

Jul 7 2012 - 9:26am


We arrived in Shanghai during the first week of July. And we got there fast, I mean really fast! We took the new bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai and covered the entire distance of approximately 800 miles in 5 hours. At one point, the speedometer of the train showed 320 km/hr, which is around 200 mi/hr!
We spent only one week in Shanghai and this was our last week in China.  Many scholars had mixed feelings about leaving, but were also very excited about going to India.
We met our new host students from Shanghai Jiaotong University and started the week with lectures about environment and urban development in Shanghai, especially with regard to the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. As was the case of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the World Expo took a big toll on some of the most underserved communities; people were displaced from a wide area. We had the chance to drive by the site of the former expo grounds. The space is underused, dirty, partly abandoned, and is becoming an eyesore for the city.
Our visits while in Shanghai included seeing the Municipal Department of Environmental Protection, the Grassroots Community, and Greenovate. The first gave us a broad view of what the local government of Shanghai is doing to improve the sustainability of the city, especially in light of the rapid growth of the past few years. Our visit to the Grassroots Community showed us how the public is organizing to cope with issues of gentrification in old and poor neighborhoods. Greenovate is a for-profit business that advises big corporations on how to become "green." This visit gave us a perspective on the business side of the environmental movement.  
Due to its accelerated economic development, Shanghai is one of many cities in China that has experienced massive migration. Migrants come to the city in search of jobs and better opportunities.  In most cases, the skills required in the city do not necessarily match those of the migrants.   Sometimes, these migrants end up working in construction projects around the city. Big development and construction firms anticipate the origin of their employees and build hundreds of dorms inside their construction sites to house them.  These workers barely leave the premises during the entirety of the construction project.  
Our time in Shanghai gave us great insight into the complex aspects of environment and urbanization issues in a rapidly changing Chinese city.
At the end of the Shanghai portion of our trip we said goodbye to Professor Yang and to T.A. Wei Wang. Professor Yang and Wei were great resources during our time in China and we thank them for all their hard work and commitment to the program.