Shang­hai tops many best-of lists, but in­fla­tion still an is­sue

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Manav Keel­ing The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

The Chi­nese-lan­guage edi­tion of Forbes re­cently re­leased its lat­est Best Cities in China to Live list, with Shang­hai com­ing in first. The de­ci­sion took six fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion: eco­nomic and pop­u­la­tion scale, cost of liv­ing, dis­posal in­come and sav­ings, wages, ed­u­ca­tion, health­care and en­ter­tain­ment re­sources.

Forbes said that Shang­hai claimed the num­ber one spot “in part on the strength of its rel­a­tively high in­come level and top en­ter­tain­ment re­sources com­pared with other Chi­nese mainland cities.” Bei­jing came in sec­ond place.

Truth be told, Shang­hai has been top­ping so many best-of lists in re­cent years that this isn’t re­ally news any­more. Just like all other worl­drenowned mega­lopolises such as New York, Paris, Lon­don and Tokyo, there comes a point when a de­vel­oped city be­comes a per­ma­nent fix­ture in top-10 world rank­ings.

In this case, Forbes was com­par­ing Shang­hai with other Chi­nese mainland cities, but its first-place po­si­tion here isn’t any sur­prise, either. I mean, Bei­jing has his­tory and Guangzhou of South China’s Guang­dong Prov­ince has soul, but when tak­ing all fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion, it’s ob­vi­ous that Shang­hai has made the big­gest strides in re­cent decades to im­prove its al­laround ap­peal.

Last month, Cush­man & Wake­field’s in­au­gu­ral “The Prepped Cities In­dex,” which tracks 17 ma­jor busi­ness cen­ters based on a wide range of macroe­co­nomic, struc­tural, de­fen­sive and so­cial in­di­ca­tors, an­nounced that “Shang­hai is the third most pre­pared city in the Asia-Pa­cific.” The in­dex demon­strates types of risk man­age­ment that cities should pre­pare for fu­ture un­cer­tain­ties, such as rent volatil­ity, gov­er­nance, ter­ror­ism, tal­ent and cy­ber se­cu­rity.

In May, China’s Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics an­nounced that Shang­hai re­tained the top spot on a list of 31 prov­ince-level ju­ris­dic­tions in terms of high­est earn­ers, with an av­er­age of 17,277 yuan ($2,700) over the Jan­uary-March pe­riod. Based on fig­ures pub­lished in 2017, that rep­re­sents an in­crease of 9 per­cent from the equiv­a­lent pe­riod. The re­main­der of the top five places in­cluded Yangtze River Delta prov­inces Zhe­jiang and Jiangsu.

In April, in­ter­na­tional real es­tate and in­vest­ment ser­vices firm JLL ranked 12 Chi­nese cities that best de­mon­strate in­no­va­tive eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and are set to be­come the most com­pet­i­tive. Guess which topped the list? “Shang­hai has done the most to con­nect China with the rest of the world through its busi­ness trans­parency and ac­tive mar­ket in­no­va­tion, and is driving busi­ness growth and at­tract­ing di­verse sets of tal­ent and in­vestors.”

Also in April, Shang­hai topped the list of “most at­trac­tive Chi­nese cities for for­eign­ers” for the sixth con­sec­u­tive year, ac­cord­ing to a rank­ing con­ducted by the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of For­eign Ex­perts Af­fairs. “In 2017, 80,914 for­eign­ers were at­tracted to Shang­hai for in­no­va­tion and star­tups. By the end of March, the city had is­sued con­fir­ma­tion let­ters for for­eign high-end tal­ents to 100 high-end over­seas tal­ents in­vited by uni­ver­si­ties, re­search in­sti­tutes and for­eign-funded re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­ters,” the Global Times re­ported.

As an ex­pat liv­ing and work­ing in Shang­hai, I whole­heart­edly agree with each of th­ese lists. Shang­hai is by far one of the most in­no­va­tive and mod­ern­ized – and com­fort­able and safe – cities I have lived in any­where in the world. Ev­ery­thing you could ever pos­si­bly need to either start a new busi­ness, or raise a fam­ily, or ex­plore your creative side, or sim­ply chillax and en­joy life, are all read­ily avail­able and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to both Chi­nese and for­eign­ers.

My big­gest is­sue with Shang­hai, how­ever, is de­tailed in Bank Julius Baer & Co.’s lat­est an­nual Wealth Re­port Asia, which tracks spend­ing by the re­gion’s rich. Shang­hai is now the most ex­pen­sive city in all of Asia, over­tak­ing both Hong Kong and Tokyo on a price-weighted ba­sis. This high level of in­fla­tion is go­ing to turn off many po­ten­tial star­tups and young tal­ents – as well as new fam­i­lies – and drive them out into pro­vin­cial cities, which ben­e­fits China as a whole but even­tu­ally might bring Shang­hai’s rank­ing back down on th­ese same lists.

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