In December of 2009, the IEEE CDC will be held in conjunction with the Chinese Control Conference in the historically important Chinese city of commerce, Shanghai. Planning the combined CDC/CCC in 2009 has been going on for several years, and while early discussion about holding a CDC in China took place as early as 2003, the work of selecting a city and conference facility began in earnest in the summer of 2006. At that time, with Program Vice-Chairs Jie Huang and Hua Wang, I traveled by train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou where we met colleagues form the Chinese Academy of Sciences---the Conference General Co-Chair Lei Guo, the Program Co-Chair Daizhan Cheng, and Conference Secretary Yuan Shen. The team visited potential conference sites in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing and carefully weighed the advantages of each. In the end, it was decided that for Conference attendees from outside of China, the ease of travel to Shanghai would be an advantage outweighing the warmer December weather that could be expected in Guangzhou. At the same time, the relatively mild climate of Shanghai weighed heavily in the group's preferring it to Beijing. Thus, the decision was made.

Since 2006, a several members of the Conference Organizing Committee have returned to Shanghai to negotiate arrangements with hotels and with the Shanghai International Convention Center, which has been selected as the Conference meeting site. This past August, Program Co-Chair Faryar Jabbari and I traveled back to Shanghai to hold a planning meeting with Chinese colleagues Lei Guo, Daizhan Cheng, and Yuan Shen from Beijing and members of the Shanghai Local Organizing Committee: Chairs Xiaofan Wang and Shaoyuan Li and Local Conference Secretary Ning Li. It was great to be back with friends in Shanghai, the alluring Asian city that I think of as Chinese New York. I feel confident in recommending it to friends and colleagues, and I hope those who read this article will make their own journey to Shanghai for CDC/CCC 2009 in December of 2009.

Shanghai has been a nexus in space and time linking important points and events in the world’s oldest civilization. Located in the Yangze River delta, it has served as a gateway connecting the vast and fertile interior to points outside of China. Today, with more than twenty million inhabitants (according to the China Daily—, it is the largest city in China, and it ranks as the world’s eleventh largest city. Part of the allure of modern Shanghai is the way it blends the urban landscape of ultramodern skyscrapers with a vast collection historically important sites.

Table of Contents


The Radio Tower seen from inside one of the spheres of the Shanghai International Convention Center, the venue for CDC/CCC 2009.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home


The history of Shanghai is inextricably tied to the much older history of all of China. Extending backwards in time nearly five thousand years, this history is unlike any other. While the great civilizations of Greece, Rome, and various Middle Eastern empires went through standard stages of expansion, imperial influence, and decay, China has risen and fallen repeatedly, only to rise again. There are clear accounts of major accomplishments in science, engineering, and other indicia of civilization that significantly predate similar developments in Europe and the rest of the world. That the Chinese were the first to invent printing was discovered by the British Hungarian explorer Marc Aurel Stein, who traveled to Dunhuang in 1907 where he unearthed (somewhat literally) the Diamond Sutra, an early Buddhist book printed in 868 AD, 600 years before Gutenberg and the first printed books in Europe.

As the Control Systems Society prepares to hold its first CDC in China in conjunction with the Chinese Control Conference, it is worth mentioning that many centuries before the Chinese invented printing, they had already been engaged in complex and large-scale engineering projects. Prominent among these was the Dujiangyan irrigation system, designed and built under the direction of Li Bing in the third century BC. Li Bing was appointed by the court of the Qin Kingdom 1 as a local governor in Sichuan province toward the end of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). What he undertook was arguably the largest public works project in recorded history up to that time. The project was motivated by a twofold problem related to regularly occurring floods in the region. The Min River overflowed its banks, causing widespread devastation pretty much on a yearly basis. At the same time, the river was needed as a route for military transport as the Qin government sought to solidify its control over the region. Li Bing had the extremely clever idea of building a spillway and storage dam to divert excess river water when needed. To realize the idea, he needed to cut through a massive amount of rock. The project was begun in 242 BC, more than a thousand years before Chinese Taoist monks invented gunpowder in the ninth century AD. To break through the mountain, Li Bing had his work crews ``burn piles of hay on the surface of the rocks to make them hot, and then pour cold water to cool them down rapidly,'' letting the rapid contraction cause them to fracture [4]. It took Li Bing fourteen years to complete the Dujiangyan Irrigation project. The accomplishment is stunning, given the primitive tools he had to work with. It is no less remarkable that the system has remained in continuous operation and continues to function at the present time. At this writing, a good photo of part of the system can be found at

1The Qin dynasty (as opposed to the Qin Kingdom) was in power only a short time, from 221 to 207BC. It was enormously important, however, and the word China is in fact derived from the word Qin. The first Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, was also the first emperor of China. Prior to the Qin Dynasty, Chinese rulers had been called kings. [Back]

Looking out at the always busy Huangpu River at 6:00am on a Sunday. The picture is from a window in the Pudong Shangri-La hotel, one wing of the building being at the right. The opening and closing receptions of CDC/CCC 2009 will be held at the hotel.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home


Against the backdrop of such early developments, the history of Shanghai itself unfolds. During the period of the Western Han dynasty, around 100 BC, China established a trade route from Asia to the Mediteranean that enabled the transport of goods---especially luxuries like silk and other fabrics. For many centuries, what become known as the Silk Road was the primary means by which goods and ideas were exchanged with Europe and the Middle East. Thus it was not until the late European middle ages that sea trade became a widely used alternative to the Silk Road, and coastal settlements like Shanghai were transformed from fishing villages into centers of commerce. Shanghai was officially upgraded from the status of fishing village to market town in 1074 by the Government of the Northern Song Dynasty, and it's stature was increased to that of a county in 1292. ([1].) The Chinese rendering of Shanghai is

The first character “shang” means “on”, and the second, “hai,” means “sea.” Before the time of the Song Dynasty (See Table below.), Shanghai was literally on the East China Sea, but after several sea dikes were constructed, the coast receded to the east. From the thirteenth century to the present, the sea coast has not been visible from Shanghai, and visitors to China have been reminded of the ocean’s proximity only by the constant stream of ships that ply the local river ways.

States, Kingdoms, and Dynasties of China


Xia Kingdom

2000-1520 BC

Shang Kingdom

1520-1027 BC

Western Zhou

1027-771 BC

Eastern Zhou

 771 - 221 BC





First Partition


 221 - 207 BC


 206 BC - 9 AD

Xin interregnum

 9 - 25 AD


 25 - 220 AD

Three Kingdoms

 220 - 265 AD


 265 - 316 AD


 317 - 420 AD

Second Partition

Southern Song

 420 - 478 AD

Southern Qi

 479 - 501 AD

Southern Lian

 502 - 556 AD

Southern Chen

 557 - 588 AD

Northern Wei

 386 - 553 AD

Eastern Wei

 534 - 549AD

Western Wei

 535 - 557 AD

Northern Qi

 550 - 577 AD

Northern Zhou

 577 - 588 AD



 580 - 618 AD


 618 - 907 AD

Third Partition

Five Dynasties

 907 - 960 AD

Ten Kingdoms 907

 907 - 979 AD



 960 -1279 AD


 916 -1125 AD


 1038 -1227 AD

JIN (Tartar)

 1115 -1234 AD

YUAN (Mongol)

 1279 -1368 AD


 1368 -1644 AD


 1644 -1911 AD


 1911 -1949 AD


 1949 - Present

              - Source: Simon Winchester, [4]


As the above examples illustrate, by the time Shanghai became more than a fishing village, the larger China had developed a culturally and technologically advanced civilization that led the world in many ways. From its initial emergence as a center of water-borne commerce, Shanghai’sgrowth and development was alternately helped and hurtby changing trade policies of the central Chinese government. In particular, the period of the Ming Dynasty (See the above table of dynasties.) was bleak. In the late 1300’s and early 1400’, official trade policies routed coastal shipping to a different port (Lie He Kou), and water ways that bypassed Shanghai were constructed. A more serious blow to the city was the decision around 1450 to discourage long-distance navigation. One of the great mysteries of Chinese history is tied to the seven voyages of Zheng He between the years 1405 and 1433. These were sponsored by the great Ming emperor Yongle. History seems to be unclear as to the exact extent of Admiral Zheng He’s voyages, but they certainly included visits to India, Ceylon (SriLanka), the Middle East, and Africa—from which he brought back a giraffe as a gift for the Emperor. Apparently, it terrified the Emperor, and it may have been a contributing factor in the fateful government decision to curtail all long-distance sea voyages. Some extravagant claims have been made about Zheng He reaching the America’s, but there is no record of this. Despite the voyages having discovered important water routes and having returned considerable foreign treasure to the Ming emperor, it was decreed in 1424 that all voyages of the treasure ships should be stopped and that no more ocean-going ships should be constructed. Some of the records of Zheng He’s journeys were removed from government archives in 1477 and presumably lost. After this, all long-distance voyages were stopped. The Ming maritime trade policies ushered in a 300-year decline in the fortunes of Shanghai.([1]. )

While the Ming Dynasty’s restrictions on maritime trade took a toll on Shanghai’sprosperity and growth, they also coincided with a profound change in China itself. During the waning years of the Ming Dynasty and throughout the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), China’s remarkable creativity stagnated. Chinese leadership in technological innovation was surpassed by Western Europe. The question of why the industrial revolution took place in Europe with no participation at all from the historically more creative Chinese has become known as the “Needham Question”—after Joseph Needham ([3]. ). (A large literature on the Needham Question can be found via GoogleTM.) Needham’s question drove the research and writing of his magisterial 15,000 page, twenty-four volume Science and Civilization in China, and although he discusses it at some length in his volumes, he went to his grave without an answer. There is ongoing debate, with some scholars arguing that the Needham Question is less interesting than the more positively posed question of why the industrial revolution did occur in Europe at this time. One of my Chinese colleagues believes that China may have stagnated under the oppressive weight of political corruption that was rampant in the Qing Dynasty.

Because he died in 1995, Joseph Needham he was unable to witness the enormous extent of the changes that have occurred in modern China. I am envious of colleagues who were able to visit China before andimmediately after the Cultural Revolution, because they saw the baseline in terms of which contemporary China can best be understood. On numerous recent China trips with colleagues who are helping to organize the 2009 Conference on Decision and Control, I have seen the phenomenal year-to-year growth that is propelling China from the Third World toward the top of the First World in only a few decades. The natural follow-on to the Needham Question is “Will China now re-emerge as the world’s leading civilization?” A compelling account of Needham’s research on China and his lifetime of writing the book is given in Simon Winchester’s recent book[4].

The Oriental Pearl Radio Tower and Shanghai International Convention Center from across the Huangpu River on a sunny winter day in early 2008. The building to the immediate right of the Radio Tower is the new Shanghai Customs House.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home


Modern Shanghai embodies and reflects all aspects of China’s resurgence. 2 It is a huge and rapidly growing metropolis. The “natural” population growth in Shanghai— i.e. the population growth due to new births— was negative for many years, but at the same time, the growth due to immigration was remarkably high—reaching 23% between 1990 and 2000. The rate of new construction is also extraordinary, and visitors who return to Shanghai after only a year’s absence may become disoriented by the presence of many buildings that did not exist at the time of their previous visit. The energy and vitality that one feels today in China’s largest city is breathtaking.

When I first visited China, I was struck by the large number of icons venerating Mao Zedong. It is fair to say that Mao remains a controversial figure, but the extent to which he is revered in modern China is huge. One finds statues, commemorative plaques, books, portraits, and everywhere in the streets there are people selling Chairman Mao watches for 100 yuan—or whatever you manage to negotiate. The Chinese are well aware of the lethal hardships suffered by millions during the Great Leap Forward and later during the Cultural Revolution. Nevertheless, Mao is regarded as a modern liberator of China. It was his leadership that allowed the Chinese to throw off the shackles of European colonialism and the systemic corruption that was entrenched from the Qing dynasty.

Shanghai played animportant role in much of the important transformations that have taken place in modern China. It was probably no accident that the first Congress of the Chinese Communist Party(CPC) was held in Shanghai (from July 23-31, 1921). The location of this secret meeting has become a shrine, and it is certainly an interesting tourist site. The building and the area around it have been opulently restored. To enhance it’s attractiveness, government officials decided to surround the site with amenities that would be universally attractive to wealthy foreign tourists and an increasingly prosperous local population as well. Thus, the original meeting-place at 76 Xing Ye Lu sits at the edge of a cluster of shops and restaurants known as Xin Tian Di (“NewHeaven and Earth”). The old meeting site has undergone agreat deal of renovation since I first visited in 2003. A visitor will see beautifully recreated full-scale models of the early meetings and old movies of the turbulent years of Japanese occupation and subsequent conflict with the Chinese Nationalists. The visitor will also find nicely framed posters containing a good deal of historical propaganda. After indulging in this carefully scripted history of proletarian struggle, you can go around the corner to purchase a Cartier watch and then sit down in an elegant restaurant to enjoy exquisite fusion cuisine with a bottle of expensive European or Australian wine.

2Today, with aland area covering 6,340 square kilometers and apopulation of 18 million people, Shanghai has become the largest economic center in China and an important port city. It has maintained a GDP growth rate of over 10 percent in the last 11 years. More than 100 foreign countries and regions have investments in some 30,000 local projects, taking advantage of the 74 deep-water berths and 20 international container piers at the Shanghai Port. The Yangshan International Deep Water Port that is currently under construction is expected to give a modern twist to the port city. Hongqiao and Pudong International airports link Shanghai with 141 cities in 29 foreign countries and regions everyday.—Source: The website of the Office of the Mayor of Shanghai. [Back]

Designed by Boston architect Ben Wood, the urban mall Xin Tian Di recreates structures that look like the shikumen dwellings that are typical of Shanghai. It is an opulent tastefull enhancement of the restored meeting site of the First Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, located at 76 Xing Ye Lu.

The location of the secret first Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) has become a major tourist attraction. The building is representative of the shikumen style of residential Shanghai architecture that was prevalent in 1921 when the Congress met. The restored meeting site is probably a great deal more elegant than it was at the time of the 1921 meeting.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home


There is so much to see in China’s largest city that it is hard to make the necessary choices of what to leave out of a short article like this. With difficulty, I shall exercise restraint and describe only things with which I have had personal experience. I refer to the many guidebooks for more information.

The Shanghai Ghetto

The Shanghai ghetto was situated in the Hongkou District of Japanese-occupied Shanghai, where about 20,000 European Jews sought refuge from Nazi persecution during World War II. Some reminders of the period can still be found, such as the Ohel Moishe Synagogue located at No. 62, Changyang Road. Built by Russian Jews in 1907, this served as a refugee meeting place throughout the war years. The hospitality Shanghai showed to Jewish refugees at this time was remarkable in several ways. By the late 1930’s, when Jews realized that they were in mortal danger in Europe, most countries, including the United States, would not permit them entry without difficult-to-obtain travel documents. Shanghai was the only place in the world that did not require a visa. That Shanghai proved to be a life-saving refuge for European Jews also depended on the occupying power Japan being willing to tolerate their presence. Japan had invaded China in 1937 and although there were many incidents of the Chinese being treated with considerable cruelty, the Japanese largely ignored the Jews of Shanghai. Jews who had been long-time residents—such as those from Russia and Iraq—were ignored, while those who had recently arrived from places like Germany, Austria, and Poland to escape the Nazi’s were labeled “stateless refugees” and forced to live in what became known as the Shanghai Ghetto. The conditions were such that the residents of the ghetto could maintain their traditions and lifestyle, and while life was not easy, everyone survived. A compelling documentary entitled Shanghai Ghetto uses actual film footage of the time to depict the passage to Shanghai and daily life in the ghetto. It is available from the website

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home

Many of the world's greatest museums are in or adjacent to People's Square. The Shanghai Museum has a gorgeous collection of Chinese antiquities and an excellent museum shop.---Credit - "Mountain". Used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Many of the ancient ceramic pieces of the Shanghai Museum are more than a thousand years old.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home

The Shanghai Museum and People’s Square

For the first-time visitor to China, a clear impression of the extraordinarily rich cultural history of the place is quickly gleaned from a visit to the Shanghai Museum in People’s Square. Here one finds exquisite porcelains that are perfectly preserved after many centuries. Indeed, many of the apparently flawless ceramics are more than a thousand years old, and there are early pottery fragments that date to 9000 BC. Early painting, calligraphy, and bronze also abound, and with one of the most gorgeous museum shops anywhere in the world, the Shanghai Museum must be seen on any visit to Shanghai. Shaped and colored like a copper pot, the Museum is located in the beautiful People’s Square, which is a great destination in its own right for those seeking to escape the high-energy bustle of Shanghai’s city streets. The address is No. 201 Ren Min Da Dao Shanghai 200003, Phone: (021) 6372-3500.

Just off People's Square is the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center where the visitor can glimpse what what the next decade of urban development may hold. Inside the Urban Planning Exhibition Center is a scale model of the city. It occupies essentially the entire third floor and is the world's largest diorama of its kind.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home

The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center

Not far from the Shanghai Museum, one can find a similarly impressive edifice that houses the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. A question that occurs to all visitors to Shanghai is whether the explosive growth is guided by any kind of a plan, and the exhibits in the Exhibition Center answer the question in a dramatically affirmative way. There is much to see, but the thing that is so special is the 1000 square meter diorama that is a scale model of what urban Shanghai is projected to be in 2020. It is stunning in its level of detail and is a great place for the first time visitor to get her bearings. The address is 100 Ren Min Da Dao, Shanghai 200003, Phone: (021) 6372-2077. After visiting the Urban Planning Exhibition and the Shanghai Museum, if you have any energy left, another place worth visiting in People’s Square is the Museum of Contemporary Art.

In much of the former French Concession, one has a feeling of being in Europe.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home

The French Concession, the H.E. Morris Estate, and the Rui Jin Da Sha

European colonial influences can be seen in the architecture and urban design of many neighborhoods in Shanghai. Nowhere is this more true than in the French Concession, where the streets frequently remind one of Paris. Shanghai has been a very tolerant place throughout its history, and one of the most tolerant parts of Shanghai has been the French Concession. (As mentioned above, it is not a coincidence that the first Congress of the Chinese Communist Party was held in the French Concession—in 1921.) H.E. Morris Jr., who inherited the North China Daily News upon his father’s death in 1920, built an estate in the French Concession because local ordinances allowed him to also build a greyhound track. The 1930s colonial-style mansion was occupied by members of the Morris family until 1952. After Mao Zedong launched the infamous Cultural Revolution in 1966, many of the brutal excesses were directed by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing and other members of the Gang of Four. Before she was arrested in 1976, Jian Qing found the Morris Mansion to be a comfortable place to live and to conduct the daily business of running the Cultural Revolution. Today the Morris Mansion has become the up-market Rui Jin Hotel, where guest-rooms go for upwards of $400 per night. The hotel is quite a jewel that is beautifully set in alarge urban garden. The address is 118 Ruijin Er Lu Shanghai 200020, Phone (021) 6472-5222;

Between the former French Concession and the Bund, one can walk through residential neighborhoods like this one. The houses are called shikumen. It was this architectural style that Boston architect Ben Wood tried to replicate in his design of Shanghai's Xin Tian Di shopping area.

The author in one of the many shopping arcades near the Yu Yuan Garden.---Credit - H.O. Wang. The Bridge of the Nine Turnings and the Hu Xin Ting Teahouse the near the Yu Yuan Garden. The turnings on the bridge are intended to help those crossing it to shed evil demons.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home

Yu Yuan

Shanghai is not an ancient city by Chinese standards, but there are places where the historical heritage—if not the place itself— is several centuries old. Just south of the city center, bordered by Renmin Lu and Zhongshan Lu is the Yu Yuan Garden. The garden was conceived by Pan Yun Duan, a government official during the Ming Dynasty. Pan apparently built the garden to serve as a retirement gift for his father, who had abdicated his government position so that Pan could take it up. The 20,000 square meter park was laid out in 1559 and completed in 1577. Throughout its history, Shanghai has undergone almost constant rebuilding of everything, and the Yu Yuan Garden is no exception. It has repeatedly fallen into states of neglect and dilapidation— only to be revived and reconstructed. The Garden in its present form is the result of a five-year reconstruction project started in 1956. Much more recently, shopping arcades have been added— using roughly similar architectural design— and a trip to the Yu Garden Shopping Arcade provides the opportunity to buy all sorts of Chinese crafts and recently manufactured "antiques". If you go to the area, you should plan time for a visit to the Garden itself. This is accessible by crossing the Bridge of Nine Turnings to arrive at the Garden Gate. Immediately after crossing the bridge, whose turnings are designed to help shed evil spirits, one comes to the Hu Xin Ting Teahouse, the oldest traditional teahouse in Shanghai. A perfect visit to the Yu Yuan complex includes a little shopping, followed by a rejuvenating visit to the Garden, and concluded by traditional Chinese tea.

An enduring image of Shanghai, the Bund is a collection of European-style buildings that housed major international business offices in the first half of the twentieth century. The twenty-five buildings on the Bund have been granted the protection of "heritage building" status by the Shanghai Municipal Government. Not all are currently open to the public, but several have been renovated as showcases for international gastronomy, leisure, and up-market retail.

Twenty-two buildings of the Bund with their original designations. ---Credit - Simon Fieldhouse. Used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home

The Bund

Probably the best known tourist destination in Shanghai is the Bund, which features a string of early twentieth century European style buildings on the west bank of the Huangpu River. Bund is German for confederation, but according to Peter Hibbard, Bund is actually derived from the Hindustani word band, meaning artificial embankment. Prior to the nineteenth century, the Huangpu riverbank was nothing more than a strip of mud. The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries comprised a period of sustained building and development that resulted in the riverbank being replaced by a imposing quay along which more than twenty buildings of European architecture were constructed to house the major colonial financial institutions of the day. Throughout the twentieth century, the buildings along the Bund have defined the signature image of Shanghai. Despite their foreign origin and the fact that they could be seen as symbols of China’s humiliation at the hands of Western imperialists, they have all been given heritage plaquesby the Shanghai Municipal Government, and zoning rules for the area prevent the construction the sky scrapers that continue to sprout up throughout other parts of the city. As prosperity has increased in Shanghai over the past few decades, many of the buildings of the Bund have been restored to house upscale retail, restaurants, and other attractions that appeal to tourists and newly prosperous Chinese alike. While Bar Rouge at 18 on the Bund (the former Chartered Bank of India, Australia, and China), New Heights at 3 on the Bund (the former Union Building), and the very fashionable Jean Georges also at 3 on the Bund are as attractive to western tastes as any eating and drinking establishments in the world, the type of restoration they represent has become a topic of heated debate among people who want a voice in the planning of Shanghai’s future. It is certainly true that the renovated interiors of building on the Bund bear no resemblance whatever to their design and function of 75 years ago. Nevertheless, these establishments are now an important part of the the good life in Shanghai, and it is ever-so-pleasant to sip your favorite wine or cocktail and look out on the constant traffic on the Huangpu River and watch the light show of the buildings in Pudong on the far side.

A diorama recreating a soiree of the early twentieth century. One of many such remarkable creations in the Shanghai History Museum located in the base of the Oriental Pearl Radio Tower.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai History Museum

More than any other contemporary structure, the Oriental Pearl Radio tower is the symbol of resurgent Shanghai. It is open to the public, and many people feel the same need to visit the tower that tourists in New York feel about visiting the Empire State Building. Shanghai is frequently covered by haze, and for this reason, a trip to the upper levels of the tower may prove disappointing. There is also a little too much kitsch on sale for my taste. There is apart of the Tower that really should be seen, however, and this is the Shanghai History Museum located in the base. The Museum emphasizes the history of the colonial period from 1860 to 1949, and it features a wide array of artifacts and diorama’s of the period. There are recreations of street scenes from all over Shanghai, and one can see images of life as it may have occurred on the Bund, Nanjing Lu, and the streets of the French Concession.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home

Chinese Hospitality and the World’s Most Gracious Hotel

Imagine you have taken a fourteen hour flight from an American gateway city and your plane has just landed at the new multi-billion-dollar Pudong International Airport— about forty-five minutes by expressway from Shanghai. You are met at the airport by a car and driver attached to the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel, and as you leave the city’s outskirts and start to negotiate the increasingly complex urban street system, you feel quite happy that you are not driving yourself. Upon arriving at the hotel, you are greeted at curbside by the manager on duty at the time. Because it’s not your first visit, you are welcomed back and immediately shown to your room. The details of check-in are deferred until you have had a chance to relax and refresh. You are given a small gift, and as your luggage is being deposited, a pleasant young woman in a beautiful Shanghai Tang dress asks if she can offer you tea with fresh jasmine flowers.

The two primary conference hotels are the Oriental Riverside, which is part of the Shanghai International Convention Center, and the Pudong Shangri-La, a block away. Both are on the eastern bank of Shanghai's main river, the Huangpu. Depicted here are the two towers of the Pudong Shangri-La.

The Pudong Shangri-La Hotel is a five-star hotel that is part of a chain based in Hong Kong. All Shangri-La hotels are excellent, but the one in Pudong is truly special. It is perhaps the great tradition of hospitality in Shanghai, but in any case, this Shangri-La seems a most worthy site for the CDC events that we plan to hold there.

Just as the signature image of colonial Shanghai was the Bund, the signature image of modern Shanghai is Pudong— with its massive gleaming modern architecture. None of the buildings that define the modern Pudong skyline existed prior to 1990, and now, according to an airline magazine piece I saw a couple of years ago, a new building of more than 30 stories is completed in Shanghai every twelve days, and this has been the case for almost the past decade. Some of the managers of the Shangri-La and the Shanghai International Convention Center, where CDC/CCC 2009 will be held, were actually members of the teams that oversaw the construction of these facilities.

Puxi, Shanghai, at dusk.

Back to TOC     CDC/CCC_2009_Home


Shanghai is China's most convenient gateway, with many daily nonstop flights from Europe and North America. This largest city in China is a high-energy, stylish place, and historically it is the city that has been most accessible to foreigners. At the same time, Shanghai is China's least Chinese city. The Shanghainese, as local people call themselves, have chosen to preserve the architectural and cultural artifacts of the all the numerous encounters China has had with the world outside. Because of this, visitors from Europe or North America can, if they so choose, find so many things that seem like home that they can avoid taking a close look at what makes China China. Thus I conclude by recommending that first-time visitors travel beyond Shanghai and take excursions to places like Dunhuang, Chengdu, Xian, and certainly Beijing. Guidebooks such as [1] and the especially beautiful [5] can be consulted for planning a memorable trip.


[1] Eric N. Danielson, Shanghai and the Yangzi Delta, Times Editions -Marshall Cavendish, Singapore, ISBN 981-232-597-2,336 pages.

[2] Rob Gifford, China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power, Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8129-7524-6,343 pages.

[3] Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, Vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, CB2 1RP, 1988 Printing, 357pages.

[4] Simon Winchester, The Man Who Loved China, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, ISBN978-0-06-0884598, 2008, 331pages.

[5] National Geomgraphic Traveler: Shanghai, by A. Forbes, and D. Butow, photographer. National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, ISBN: 978-14262-0148-6, 2007, 272 pages.