25 June 2012

Future Shanghai

Note: If you are new here, read this then this, first.

Shanghai, China's largest city, is the grand showcase for China's rapid economic development. Once a small textile and fishing town, it has grown in a sprawling metropolis within a matter of a few short years. It is now a leading financial center and the world's busiest port. Just look at the below photo showing Shanghai as it was just 20 years ago and how it is today:

At first glance I thought that top image was some small town in America, but no, that is 20 years of change and progress.

Seeing how a city can change so much in just 20 years, Ive come to wonder how this rapidly growing city will change in the next 20 years.

I recently finished playing the cyberpunk action/adventure game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, set in the year 2027. At least twice in the game you visit Shanghai, and it looks drastically different than today.

Holy Shit
In 2027, Shanghai is literally a two tiered city. Building upwards alone couldn't satisfy the city's need to support an ever growing economy and population. So instead, you build another city right on top of it!

This megastructure is known in the game as "the Pangu" (盤古) literally; "ancient plate" though it is anything but ancient.

It's a radical idea, but sounds extremely expensive and poses massive engineering challenges. But you saw the other photo. If Shanghai could change that much between 1990 and 2010, who knows how it could change between 2012 and 2027? Ok, maybe the above screenshot won't become a reality that quickly, but only time will tell.

In Deus Ex, the city is divided into two tiers not just literally, but social-economically as well. China's richest and most powerful live a lavish life above the Pangu, while the commoners live in the slums below, constantly in the shadow of the Pangu. The symbolism is just too perfect!

In the game you spend most of your time below the Pangu. First off, there are prostitutes everywhere! Around every corner, though this isn't really that surprising. Also, everyone speaks English and/or Mandarin, I did not hear any Wu Chinese (the local dialect which is drastically different than Mandarin)  in the game (though this may be due to the PRC's continued push in the future to make putonghua the de facto national language, even in areas resistant to it like Shanghai and Guangdong). Much of the infrastructure below the Pangu doesn't look much different than today (I think, Ive never been). Strangely, all of the signs plastered all over the city are written in traditional Chinese, while in Mainland China (where Shanghai is) they use Simplified characters. What's also unusual is that the developers actually bothered to make the signs actually say something rather than just gibberish, same thing with the dialogue.

Here are some excellent videos on the architecture of this future city as well as some artwork. Enjoy!


  1. Can you change your blog to 'Ask A Hongkong Guy' please? At please it would match your profile pic then. I decided to check in on your blog today, and this post alone makes me facepalm so hard.

    I know you know why I don't like your blog at all, but I just want to say one thing. 盘古 is a reference to 盘古 *surprise surprise* in that the 'world' is split into 2 halves, nothing to do with 'ancient plate' at all.... *coughdumbasscough*

    Also, I really really wouldn't expect some white game developer to know 上海话, much less the Chinese government having any involvement in the game development of some shooting game that I personally have only heard of after reading this post.

    And unlike people from hongkong, which most chinese people don't consider to be 中国人 (since you guys don't consider yourselves to be either), people from shanghai and guangdong are not 'resistant' towards ‘putonghua' just because they prefer to speak in dialect. (And yes, I consider cantonese to be a dialect of mandarin.)

    Unless of course you consider the whole of China to be resistant towards 'putonghua', since regional dialect are always dominant in the region that they are spoken in.

    So please, at least learn the basics about China before you decide to speak on behalf of all of us.

  2. roflamo shanghai was never a fishermen town youre talking about shenzen

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