Beijing and Shanghai are China’s two most widely recognized and arguably most important cities; one being China’s capital and political center and the other being China’s economic center and financial conduit to the rest of the world. In this short article we compare two of China’s and the world’s largest metropolitan centers and help you understand the differences between their architecture, culture and most importantly people.
The physical spaces of Shanghai and Beijing are worlds apart and reveal a great deal of China’s history and where it as a country is headed in the future. Much of the architecture in Beijing’s center is in the Soviet style with massive and imposing block like structures patrolled by blank faced guards from the Peoples’ Republic Army. It seems as if the goal of many of the designs of buildings in Beijing is to instill an air of authority and occupy/control as much space as possible. Architecture in downtown Shanghai is completely different in this respect with its skyscrapers looking upwards and being stylistically modern and with a global feel. The objective of the architecture of Shanghai’s center is to promote it as being a cosmopolitan city with global links and connections.
The culture as well as the buildings in Beijing and Shanghai of course plays a massive part in making these two cities unique and different from one another. Firstly the styles of cuisine are worlds apart with Shanghainese food being lightly flavored and at times sweet in comparison to the heavy flavors of sauces used in many Beijing dishes. In other respects Shanghai is seen by many in China as the fashion capital in China due to its international connections and flavor. Beijing on the other hand is generally accepted as the art capital of China as it has a varied and busy music, art and performance scene.
Shanghai and Beijing have had a long standing rivalry in China with the citizens in both cities at times looking down on their northern/southern counterparts. In general Beijingers often see people from Shanghai as being overly obsessed with money, greedy and tricky when doing business. As the stereotype goes Shanghai men are controlled by their “dragon-lady” wives who bully them into making as much money as possible by any means necessary. Conversely people from Shanghai often look down on people from Beijing as being uncultured and uneducated “country bumpkins” who may have made it off the farm but have still retained their rough peasant ways!