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24 September 2014

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Shanghai: City of the Future Words:Richard Clein
Richard Clein in Shanghai
BBC Journalist Richard Clein in Shanghai.

A documentary about Liverpool connections in Shanghai is a Radio Merseyside entry in the Sony awards. Producer Richard Clein had a high time making it.

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Chinese New Year: Liverpool


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Shanghai, China's second largest city, is one of the four cities in china (Beijing, TianJin and Chongqing) directly under the control of central government.

Today, Shanghai is one of China's biggest and busiest port, most important industrial and commercial center. Its population is 12 million, with a population density of 41,000 per square km.

Shanghai's residents are known for their business talents, quick wit and sophistication. Its fashions and standards of products and services are more international than other Chinese cities. Its shopping is the best in China.


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When I put forward a proposal to my Editor in August to make a documentary in Shanghai I never really expected it to become reality. But within weeks the trip got the go ahead and the funding was secure - all I needed now was a journalist visa!

Shanghai street scene
Shanghai street scene.

Liverpool twinned with Shanghai three years ago but its historical links go as far back as the 1870’s, and Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community in Europe.

Everton FC has also recently become the first football club to make inroads into China with the signing of a sponsorship deal with Kejian (mobile phones) which also saw two Chinese internationals coming to the club.

As a member of the civic delegation from Liverpool it was a hectic schedule as guests of the Mayor of Shanghai with the full VIP treatment - the most luxurious accommodation, the biggest banquets (including such delicacies as cow’s ears and jellyfish), and the toughest bodyguards.

Food being prepared
What, no chips with curry sauce?

Our visit was part of the Britain at the Leading Edge event to show the Chinese what Britain does best. Vivienne Westwood, various Government Ministers, Cream DJ’s and former England international footballers including Gary Mabbutt were all in there to promote Britain.

This even led to the surreal experience of eating Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding in the Shanghai Hilton at a lunch hosted by the British Consul while doing a two-way with our Breakfast show.

Shanghai’s space-age skyline is dominated by the 468 meter Pearl Tower - the tallest building in Asia and an unlikely venue for lunch - but with most of the skyscrapers appearing in the last 7 years it’s the speed of its transformation which is the most astounding.

The Pearl Tower
The Pearl Tower and city skyline.

After all traffic lights only appeared in Shanghai 4 years ago so uniformed people stand on major street corners with a flag and a whistle to make sure pedestrians only cross the road when the lights are on red!

The highlight of my trip was a visit to Qingpu (see picture) - an ancient village around an hours drive from Shanghai. There was an air of tranquillity about the place and an exotic range of food being sold in the narrow but bustling streets.

The lack of English-speaking people in Shanghai meant I didn’t get an opportunity for the traditional voxpop but did manage to speak a range of people who were all there as part of Britain at the Leading Edge.

Bicycles stacked up
Bicycles are by far the most popular form of transport.

These included DJ Paul Bleasdale, Digby Jones - the Director General of the CBI, and Keith Blunt, the man who not only coached Michael Owen as a schoolboy but also the Chinese squad for the last Olympics in Sydney.

I met a number of ex-pat Scousers in Shanghai (they get everywhere) and, although 7000 miles from home, bumped into someone who went to school with a very good friend of mine! He told me how Chinese New Year in Liverpool was the main thing he missed about the city.

Another, Neil Tomes, had arrived in Shanghai unable to speak a word of Chinese. On hearing he was from Liverpool, the driver of the first taxi he took proceeded to reel off the entire Liverpool football squad.

Shanghai is a City of contrasts with the sidestreets more akin to how one would imagine China to be like - where men play cards while washing hangs on clothes lines above - all this against a backdrop of huge skyscrapers. But it’s the new Shanghai with the fastest growing economy in China and bidding to host the World Expo in 2010 - that could best be described as a City of the Future.

Shanghai City of the Future was broadcast on BBC Radio Merseyside on Friday 15th November, 2002.


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