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Moving to Shanghai?

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David Thyne

Living in China, from USA

"At the first Shanghai Get-Together I met several American expats. I am very grateful that they shared their experience with me."

Diana Anhaus-Brey

Living in China, from Germany

"It is just so easy to find other international people and global minds with InterNations. I didn´t know there were so many in Shanghai."

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Shanghai at a Glance

Moving to Shanghai

Welcome to Shanghai! You will encounter an extraordinary city with a unique mixture of Western lifestyle and Eastern flair. Our InterNations Guide on moving to Shanghai gives you a general city overview and more specific information on expat life, e.g. expat neighborhoods and visa regulations.

Both Chinese and foreign residents have described this metropolis in extravagant terms: “Pearl of the Orient”, “Gateway to the World”, “Dragon’s Head”, or “Paris of the East” – nicknames that will make your plan of moving to Shanghai appear even more exciting. However fascinating the city might seem, one shouldn’t romanticize it, but rather appreciate its interesting, albeit turbulent history that has made Shanghai what it is today.

The Pearl of the Orient

Located in the delta of the mighty Yangtze River, approximately equidistant to Beijing and Hong Kong, Shanghai has been growing from a small market town in imperial China to a 21st century megalopolis. Its municipal region is a little province of its own, subject only to the central government in Beijing.

After moving to Shanghai, you will quickly notice the population density. The area attracts thousands of people every year, both migrant laborers from rural China and expatriates who come to Shanghai for business reasons. 

Business has influenced the city’s development for most of its history. Moving to Shanghai with its natural harbor used to be important for the merchant guilds of feudal China. It was the rapid turnover of goods in the port that awakened the interest of colonial powers later on. After the British enforced trade between China and Western nations with the Treaty of Nanking (1842), countless foreign merchants arrived in Shanghai due to its trade concessions.

Since then, the city’s history has been tied up with Western imperialism and commercial interests, Chinese-Japanese tensions, and the rivalry between Chinese nationalism and Communism. It was in 1920s Shanghai that Chinese socialists founded the Communist Party of China. With Maoist troops moving to Shanghai at the end of the Chinese civil war (1949), the city became a bulwark of the party line and the Cultural Revolution.

Nowadays, the city is once again moving with the times, spearheading modern China’s rapid business development. The country’s economic liberalization has prompted numerous FIE (foreign-invested enterprises) to move to Shanghai.

Current Economic Climate

Today’s economic climate and the comparatively liberal city government make Shanghai attractive for foreign investors and qualified employees. Moving to Shanghai for a career boost, the modern version of the “Shanghailander” of yore is once more headed for a cosmopolitan boomtown.

Despite its unchallenged supremacy as one of China’s most important industrial centers, Shanghai has put a strong emphasis on the high-tech industry and the service sector recently. Home to companies from the fields of IT and microelectronics, the city is also the seat of China’s main stock exchange and, unsurprisingly, the country’s biggest expat hub.

Upon moving to Shanghai, you’re bound to meet countless other expatriates: overseas Chinese (including plenty of Taiwanese), Koreans, Japanese, Americans, Germans, British, French, etc. After moving to Shanghai, you will see that ”Shanghailand” is alive and well.

InterNations Expat Magazine