20 Years

A picture is worth a thousands words.

But I think these two photos say more like ten-thousand.

This isn’t an economics blog; this isn’t a geography blog; this isn’t a political or ideological one. It’s simply a place to realize some “aha” moments. And if this picture doesn’t make your jaw drop a bit, then…well…oh, who am I kidding? If you haven’t seen this pic, you will be impressed when you do.

Here you go:

Shanghai, China from 1990 to 2011


We all know 20 years can mean a lot to any city. Minneapolis had a big 20 years from 1985 to 2005 when most of its large buildings were erected. But the change in Shanghai from 1990 to 2011 is as drastic as any in the history of man. This picture doesn’t just say a ten thousand words; it exclaims what humanity is capable of in a short amount of time.

If your reaction is anything like mine way, you’re asking, How? and Why now, after all these years, did this city just explode?

I’d answer that the Chinese were always capable of this, but were shot out of a cannon, so to speak, when economic activity wasn’t restricted any longer. Think of it like this: you have a store and want to grow to sell more goods and open another location. But the government that rules you necessitates their permission via a long and windy road of red tape–and if you don’t know the right people, it may never happen. So you learn to be content with your little operation and growth never occurs.

In fact, the cityscape from 1990 was virtually unchanged from 1940.

But in 1991, the government decided to let that shop owner get another location. The Chinese could actualize and foreign investors could start pumping money into Shanghai. In only twenty years, you see the result.

This isn’t written as an anti-government screed, but to simply point out that in that age-old battle of concern over government vs. concern about private sector abuses, we can see that China was severely misplaced along that continuum.

From the Shanghai example, we can take note. We can stand in intrigue at the ideological forces holding people back; stand in awe at what beauty and wonder we can create, grateful that this city has evolved into one the greatest in the world–for all the world to enjoy: )


新高原,  (to new plateaus,)




4 Responses

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  2. SF Fan

    Harumph…somewhat impressed. But isn’t China notorious for shoddy building practices? I’m not too sure I’d feel secure in this building in a high wind:

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What say you?