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