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Shanghai celebrates its 60th year of liberation

FROM the Bund to Pudong, from the 19th century apartments to modern-day skyscrapers, from "red capitalist" Rong Yiren to NBA star Yao Ming, Shanghai has caught the world's attention over the past 60 years as a showcase of the achievements under the rule of the Communist Party of China.

China's largest city, home to about 20 million people today compared with 5.2 million in 1949, yesterday celebrated the 60th anniversary of its liberation from the Kuomintang party, the CPC's former rival.

The event was marked by an evening gala broadcast by a local TV station and an exhibit on the city's history from 1949 to 2009 that drew tens of thousands of spectators over the past three days.

"The world is looking at Shanghai as the government is developing the country's biggest commercial port into an international financial center and shipping center," Zhang Zhongli, a 90-year-old expert in economics and history, said at the exhibition.

"I hope to live 10 more years to see the changes in Shanghai," he said.

After the People's Liberation Army liberated Shanghai six decades ago, almost no one believed that CPC officials, who were mainly from the countryside and known for combat, could manage the city, then Asia's biggest and the economic lifeline of the KMT government.

The city was in disarray, with soaring inflation, chaotic markets, scarce factory supplies, even bandits and spies.

The KMT said it thought the CPC could stay in Shanghai - also the birthplace of the 88-year-old CPC - for no more than three months. Local business owners said the CPC could get a mark of 100 in military affairs but a zero in economics. The whole world was watching.

Speculative hoarding

"We tried to light cigarettes with light bulbs and wash rice in toilet bowls. You know, many of our officers and soldiers came from rural areas and hadn't seen such things when we first arrived in Shanghai," said 85-year-old Feng Bingxing, a veteran.

The first thing the CPC administrators did in Shanghai was to impose price controls and crack down on speculative hoarding.

"The illegal merchants came to know the CPC's capability of controlling the economy, and prices began to stabilize," said Yan Aiyun, a CPC history expert.

Many considered it a "miracle" that the CPC could take complete control of Shanghai within three years and bring political, economic and social stability.

"The liberation of Shanghai was a signal that the CPC's focus had begun to shift from the countryside to the cities, and China began its socialist modernization, which was determined by Shanghai's important position," said Yu Weimin, director of the History Department at East China Normal University.

In the following decades, the CPC stressed economic construction in the city, despite twists and turns.

Shanghai's economy grew 9.7 percent in 2008 to almost 1.4 trillion yuan (US$206 billion), though it was the first time for the city to post a growth rate below 10 percent since 1992 amid the global downturn.

Turnover on the Shanghai Stock Exchange was the second-heaviest in the Asia-Pacific region and seventh-largest in the world in 2008. The financial sector contributed 10.5 percent of the city's economic growth last year.

In 2008, the Shanghai port kept its world No. 1 position in terms of cargo throughput and second largest in container throughput.

The international metropolis is gearing up for the World Expo from May 1 to October 31 next year, which is expected to draw 70 million visitors and again attract the world's attention.


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