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back to index backGLOBALtalk August,  2006


Shanghai: Expat Influence in a World-Class City

China's boom time is magnet. As China’s developing hub of business and finance, Shanghai is the focus of that boom for many expatriates. China's role as the world's factory has people from every country moving here. While many come for their experience of working in China, each person influences the environment of the city by their interaction here. In Shanghai’s plan, expatriates have a critical role to play in making Shanghai helping to build Shanghai into what is considered, a world-class city.

How many foreigners are there in Shanghai?” is a question often asked. The answer depends on the source and which nationalities and function are included as foreigners. As of January 2005, according to government statistics, Shanghai counts over 34,000 foreign employees,. Of course, these are just the employees who have official work permits. According to an article in Peoples Daily, the number of foreign work permits issued grew by over 50% in 2002 from the previous year and over 28% in 2003. 2004 and 2005 show more of the same double digit growth. This does not include people from Taiwan or Hong Kong or people who are here not on official work permits. In a different perspective, a 2003 Amcham Survey indicates a total of 350,000 foreigners in China with 55% of them being in Shanghai. It is interesting to note, that even though foreigners still make up about 1% of the total population of Shanghai, they are responsible for contributing over 14% of the personal income tax paid in, according to Peoples Daily.

Statistics do not tell the whole story. The bustling environment for business brings all kinds of people. Expats in Shanghai come from all over the globe, span the range of demographics, and while many are here for business, the most are seeking experience. Foreigners, according to government work permit statistics, come from 112 different countries and regions. Of them, Japan accounts for 33.7 percent, and United States citizens make up 11.5 percent and Republic of Korea citizens account for 8.7 percent. Student’s and interns seeking a cross cultural indoctrination, small business entrepreneurs opening a niche to fill a perceived demand, and returning overseas Chinese who have studied and worked abroad for many years returning to participate the phenomena of a rapidly changing China are all here contributing to the cultural mix. To become a world-class” city, it is stated intention of Shanghai city planners to increase the number of expatriates living in Shanghai significantly.

Becoming a world class city is no small task. It has well defined criteria. On March 4, Victor Deyglio was a keynote speaker at the International Conference on Human Resources Strategy for World Expo 2010. He summarized the challenge. To reach its goal of being considered a world class city, Shanghai has begun to align itself in four key areas:

* Global Development: fostering a trade climate with strong import-export capabilities supported by global connectivity [IT];
* Economic Development: fostering a pro-active finance, banking and investment climate;
* Business Development: fostering a strong entrepreneurial and private enterprise climate;
* Human Resource Development: having the right people with the right skills, knowledge and aptitudes, as well as global credentials, to sustain success.”

In all areas mentioned, expatriates in Shanghai are in integral part of raising the standard of the city to meet these aggressive goals. For instance, one element of being considered world class is that 40% of its residents speak English. Another important idea in the world class city concept is that of cultural diversity and city planning is actively promoting foreign talent to move here and contribute to the mix, as evidence by beginning to issue foreigners green cards” and allow them to immigrate to China. Shanghai, generally is considered to be a city with world class potential, but there is still some distance to go in all of the areas listed above.

Over and above this specific business role or personal reason in foreigner is engaged in, their presence in Shanghai adds experience and cultural diversity that are a key ingredient building Shanghai’s future.

Source: ShanghaiExpat.comGAI


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