From imperialism to colonialism to nationalism to communism, Shanghai’s fortunes rose and fell over the centuries, but in the 21st century this megacity is a global banking and trade center.
A Franklin & Marshall College professor and student are examining whether Shanghai’s resurrection from its war-torn, impoverished past to its thriving capitalist present under communist rule is driven by private enterprise or government influence.
“There is a disagreement in existing research literature about whether Shanghai’s globalization is authentic or not,” Associate Professor of Sociology Jerome Hodos said.
One of four Chinese municipalities elevated to full provincial status, Shanghai, with one of the world’s biggest populations at more than 24 million people, is a modern, dynamic seaport along the Yangtze River and East China Sea.
“Because it’s been so heavily promoted by the government – because it’s a government project – it doesn’t spring autonomously from the economy,” Hodos said. “We know that’s happening, but we don’t think that makes Shanghai’s globalization inauthentic or different from any other global city. I think the mistake is to believe a city’s globalization springs autonomously from the economy.”
Zhuofan Li, a Hackman summer scholar who visited Shanghai as a child, worked with Hodos on the 10-week project, collecting historic and economic data, creating tables, and writing.
“I collect Chinese statistics for him; I read Chinese documents and write summaries and analysis for him; and I borrowed Chinese books and documents through our libraries and interlibrary loans,” said Li, a rising senior and sociology major. “I’m interested in doing historical research, reading government documents to see not only what they say, but what they actually mean.”
During the project, Li and Hodos also discussed graduate school opportunities for Li, who wants to get a doctorate in sociology. His primary interest is social organizations and cities.
Hodos doesn’t speak Chinese, but Li, who grew up in Beijing, has been the professor’s translator, proving an adept researcher.
“He’s found some economic data that I didn’t know existed,” Hodos said. “For example, foreign-direct investment either for foreign companies investing in Shanghai or Shanghai companies investing overseas. I had a list of things I wanted including historical information that I knew we should get, but he also found more contemporary material that I didn’t know about.”
In their research, Hodos and Li are trying to learn how much of Shanghai’s booming economic growth comes from the national communist government as opposed to local politicians who wanted the freedom to allow capitalist enterprise to shape the city.
“A lot of people think it was the national government that chose Shanghai as a national champion demonstration city,” Hodos said. “We are starting to find more and more evidence that local Shanghai politicians also pushed for it.”
Hodos said their research will produce two journal articles, tentatively slated for publication next year. Li will be a co-author on both.