City now world's key commercial trading center as well as finance, technology hub


Shanghai has withstood challenges such as COVID-19 and global economic uncertainties while maintaining its leading position among Chinese cities. That has allowed it to showcase the economic resilience it has accumulated over decades of development, city officials said.

The city's GDP in the first nine months amounted to 3.1 trillion yuan ($426.8 billion). While that was down 1.4 percent from the same period a year ago, that figure represented an improvement of 4.3 percentage points over the year-to-year percentage change of the first six months, said Ruan Qing, deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Development and Reform Commission.

Ma Haiqian, vice-president of the Shanghai Academy of Development and Reform, said the secret to Shanghai's speedy recovery was consistent support from the city's primary economic pillars. The better-than-expected performance in the third quarter helped retrieve ground lost in the first half.

"For years, Shanghai has built strengths in sectors such as finance, trade and industry, which quickly bailed the city out from the effects of the COVID-19 aftermath," Ma said.

Such strengths were consolidated over the past decade, with Shanghai growing as an international financial center and becoming the world's largest commercial trading hub as well as a center of industries with high-quality development, officials said.

The innovative city has also grown as a preferred place to live for people from home and abroad, they added.

Global hub

"In the past 10 years, Shanghai has worked to promote opening-up to a higher level and elevated itself to an international trade center," said Gu Jun, director of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce.

Guided by high-quality development, Shanghai has seen its proportion of the global market continue to rise, and has become the world's largest commercial trading city.

Imports and exports through the city's ports amounted to 10.1 trillion yuan in 2021, accounting for about 3.6 percent of global trade.

The city has worked to boost both inbound and outbound investment, and has landed more headquarters facilities for multinational enterprises than any other city in China in the past decade, officials said.

"Shanghai continues to consolidate its position as the top choice for foreign investment, and more than 60,000 foreign-funded enterprises are growing vigorously here," Gu said.

By the end of September, the city had become home to the regional headquarters of 877 multinational corporations as well as 523 foreign-funded research and development centers, Gu said.

An aerial view of the Lin-gang Special Area of China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone on Oct 22. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Financial center

By 2020, Shanghai had built itself into an international financial center compatible with China's economic strength as well as the international status of the Chinese yuan, said Xin Yadong, Party secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Finance Bureau. That laid a solid foundation for the city's continued comprehensive development.

Expansion of the financial market has strongly supported Shanghai's high-quality economic development, said Sun Hui, deputy director of the People's Bank of China's Shanghai head office.

Xin said the deepened financial reform and opening-up have provided effective support for the city's real economy. From 2012 to 2021, Shanghai's direct financing from the capital market expanded from 3.9 trillion yuan to 18.3 trillion yuan.

The science and technology innovation board at the Shanghai Stock Exchange is the result of the increased integration of the financial and technological innovation centers. By the end of September, it had attracted listings from 473 enterprises, raising a cumulative 718.18 billion yuan, with a combined market value of 5.5 trillion yuan.

"Being a pioneer of China's financial opening-up, Shanghai has quickly become the primary magnet for international financial talent along with the perfection of its financial institution system," Xin said.

The constant optimization of Shanghai's financial business environment has also enhanced its influence as a financial center, Xin added.

City of industry

Shanghai has achieved high-quality development in its industrial economy in the past decade, with the city's total industrial output exceeding 4 trillion yuan in 2021, said Wu Jincheng, director of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization. That has created a solid foundation for transforming the city into a modern and international socialist metropolis with global influence, Wu said.

With an eye toward becoming a global manufacturing hub, the city is upgrading its industrial system at an accelerated pace and making high-end manufacturing a new growth engine.

In order to give manufacturing a greater role in its economic development, Shanghai has established a new industrial system led by three pilot industries, supported by six key industries and enhanced by emerging industries.

The three leading industries — integrated circuits, biomedicine and artificial intelligence — grew to an industrial scale of 1.27 trillion yuan in 2021, Wu added.


Between 2012 and 2021, Shanghai's R&D investment soared from 67.95 billion yuan to 181.98 billion yuan, and expenditures on R&D as a percentage of gross domestic product rose from 3.31 percent to 4.21 percent during the same period, according to Xu Feng, Party secretary of the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality.

The growth of the city's technology sector is driving the city's high-quality development, making it one of the world's major centers of innovation. Shanghai was rated eighth among the top 100 global science and technology clusters by the 2021 Global Innovation Index, published by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Enterprises engaged in technological innovation in the city have grown at an accelerated pace in the past decade. At the end of August, there were 71 Shanghai-based companies listed on China's science-technology innovation board, or STAR Market, with a combined market capitalization surpassing 1.4 trillion yuan, Xu said.

Quality of life

Shanghai has greatly improved its healthcare, education, environment and living conditions in the past decade, becoming a preferred place to live for people from home and abroad, city officials said.

The city has been rated as the most attractive Chinese urban area among foreign talent for 11 years in a row, Xu said.

The average life expectancy of the registered population in Shanghai is 84.11 years, an increase of 1.7 years since 2012, said Shen Wei, Party secretary of the Education and Public Health Work Committee of CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee.

The increase can be attributed to the city's enhancement of a public health service system, Shen said.

The city also has achieved its goals for the modernization of education, officials said.

Shanghai residents' quality of life has seen significant improvement, with the city's subsidized housing programs serving a growing number of people, said Hu Guangjie, Party secretary of the Construction and Transportation Commission of Shanghai Municipality.

In the past decade, Shanghai has taken proactive approaches to meet State requirements by restructuring its energy, industry, transportation and agricultural sectors, and cultivating green, low-carbon businesses, said Cheng Peng, the director of the municipal bureau of ecology and environment.