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Shanghai takes quick steps toward a global metropolis

From developing the Pudong financial district and holding the 2010 World Expo to launching a pilot free trade zone, Shanghai has been a symbol of China’s openness and economic development. Now, the city is among the most vibrant urban centers in Asia, with over 600 multinational corporations having set up their regional headquarters there.

At the 29th International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council for the Mayor of Shanghai held on Sept 17, global executives gathered to brainstorm on how to make the city more competitive, innovative, and environmentally friendly.

Shanghai’s GDP has grown by 6.9 percent in the first half of 2017, accelerating from the same period last year. The mayor of Shanghai, Ying Yong, laid out more ambitious goals.

“By 2040, Shanghai will become a leading financial center, and annual cargo volume will reach 45 million crates. Our railway network will reach 1,000 kilometers. On the environmental side, all new construction will employ new green standards,” said Ying.

Markets in China’s financial center registered a total trading volume of $197 trillion in 2016. With reform-oriented schemes such as the Shanghai-Hong Kong stock and bond connection, the city’s financial sector is maturing, and becoming more open.

“Its role will become more and more important with time, and as the sector grows, and the number of participants grows, as the range of financial products and services grows, as innovation grows,” said Donald Guiloien, CEO of Manulife Financial.

Mayor Ying also said that Shanghai aspires to be an innovation center. The city’s total research and development investments already accounted for 3.8 percent of Shanghai’s GDP last year. More than 400 multinational corporations have set up R&D centers in the city.

“You have to have R&D centers as they have here for different companies, but then you have to take that basic R&D and turn it into commercialization. So you need distribution centers, you need to get high-end manufacturing here to develop the products from R&D and bring it to the market place, and you need to have universities that can help you to constantly challenge and bring high-quality workers into R&D so you have to build the eco-system,” said Mark Weinberger, chairman of financial services firm EY and chairman of the International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council.

Shanghai plans to boost the percentage of new strategic industries such as AI and robotics to over 25 percent of its GDP by 2030. Officials and business leaders said the new sectors are what will define a world-class metropolis in the 21st century.