If you've never been to ShangHai, then be prepared to find a rather mixed city to say the least. There are, as you'd expect, traditional elements that are very typically Chinese, but because of the gradual shift in the last 15-20 years by the Socialist government into society that is weighted into capitalism, the east coast has literally burst at the seams.
Gone is the simple port town and instead a sprawling metropolis has been and is continuing to sprout in its place. After visiting the JinMao observatory it was even clearer to see the massive developments still taking place, with no less than a dozen high rise buildings in the process of being built just in the surrounding bay area.
The consumer and commercial city of ShangHai may house some 16 million people, but the effect of industrialisation is spread far out along newly built express ways for kilometres. KunShan is some 56km from ShangHai itself, in the Suchow Province, and for some 10-15km in the latter part of the journey to the MSI facility, it is all industrial parks before reaching the in the KunShan Hi-Tech Industrial Park.
Just three of the dozen skyscrapers being built and the industrialised river that cuts through the city
This, like most of the new developments, was still very raw and "unestablished". The massive expansion has allowed the infrastructure network to grow up in respect to the pace it was made, and the foresight for inclusions for greenery have been thankfully provided, but it because it appears yet to establish itself it all feels very alien. While the people and the buildings may be settled, the trees and plants are constantly tended to and not really allowed to flourish.
ShangHai's Pearl Tower and a typical housing project - the poor visability was a combination of low cloud and ever present smog
In such a large area it didn't hit me at first but there was a surprising complete lack of graffiti and litter - so to a city boy it feels certainly very clinical as I accept other people selfishly make their mark on where I live, however it's also a testament to the pride and discipline in which the Chinese seem to live with.
If you're from the States, you might feel a closer relationship because the similarities in industrial style and use of estate space are quite significant. While the building designs have a certain Chinese flair where particular attention is paid to the main entrances which are all unique, it's all very grey, glass, concrete and clinically done. For the people living in the area there is very little additional colour apart from the green trees and grass that are systematically intermingled with it all, where the buildings and plants have been placed in a discrete square grid like some 90s simulation game.