Shanghai Studies

Chinese Metropolis

Shanghai in Comparative Perspective

Lecturer:Prof. YU Hai (Ph.D Fudan University)

Credits:3 Fudan University credits, 5 ECTS equivalent

Shanghai is one of the most powerful cities in China, in East Asia, and in the World. Its global stature is evident from the powerful architecture – a mix of cutting-edge contemporary designs and grand Western-style edifices dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. At the same time, it is distinctly Chinese and yet occupies a unique place with challenges and issues arising from its position as the financial lead in China’s rapid economic development.

Shanghai took shape after China was forced to open itself to the outside world in the second half of the 19th century, amidst the clash between, and interaction of, Oriental and Western cultures. Its history taken into consideration, there is no doubt that Shanghai presents an excellent case study of Western influence on Chinese cities in their modernization process and their adaptation and creation of local cultures in the past 170 years.

To researchers, Shanghai may best display the interaction of such elements as geography, economy, humanism and society. As the economic center of China, Shanghai's transition from planned economy to market economy is also worthy of further study. Many people are also impressed by the diversity of cultures that have left their imprints on Shanghai over the past 170 years, such as the Western colonial culture, the revolutionary culture (Shanghai is the founding place of the Communist Party of China), the city's own civic culture and the modern pop culture. Together they have molded the city's culture and made it a natural ground for metropolitan cultural study. The ability to assess critically current and future development mechanisms from a comparative perspective is essential in our increasingly interdependent global world. 

This course combines theory with first-hand exposure to and research about Shanghai. The class will address seven different themes that touch on past and especially on contemporary Shanghai from both a local and global perspective. 

The aim of the course is to provide students with Shanghai discourse and facilitate their personal experience in the city. Students will use their own first-hand observations, coupled with broad-based readings in a range of social science areas, to reach their own understanding about Shanghai and the rapid pace of China’s modernization.

Empirical experience is highly valued throughout the course. By fieldwork as well as observation, students will see the city through their own eyes. The reflection over first-hand empirical experience will be included in the assignments, and the final paper. Students are encouraged to engage critically with their empirical experiences by making comparisons between Shanghai and other cities, by looking into the cultural or institutional background of their observation, etc.

Several themes will be explored 

History of Shanghai:  from a cosmopolis to an eldest son of socialist China (1840s -1980s)

Renaissance of Shanghai: China’s future global city as a state strategy (1990s -2010s)

Contemporary religious beliefs and practice 

Education: systems and policies

Finance and  trade

Aspects of China and Shanghai Studies


Lecture 1 History of Shanghai:  from a cosmologist to an eldest son of socialist China (1840s – 1980s)

Lecture 2Trade and finance: Aspects of the Chinese and Shanghainese political economy

Lecture 3Aspects of China and Shanghai Studies: Urban landscape

Lecture 4 Renaissance of Shanghai: China’s future global city as a state strategy (1990s - today)

Lecture 5Education in Shanghai

Week 7


Week 8

The development of China Internet

Week 9

Culture and religion

Week 10


Week 11

Aspects of China and Shanghai studies:Medical and health services in Shanghai

Week 12