Historically, Pudong (浦东, pŭdōng) – the district opposite the Bund on the east bank of the river – was known as the “wrong side of the Huangpu”; before 1949, the area was characterized by unemployed migrants, prostitution, murders and the most appalling living conditions in the city. It was here that bankrupt gamblers would “tiao huangpu”, commit suicide by drowning themselves in the river. Shanghai’s top gangster, Du Yuesheng, more commonly known as “Big-eared Du”, learned his trade growing up in this rough section of town. In 1990, however, fifteen years after China’s economic reforms started, it was finally decided to grant the status of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to this large tract of mainly agricultural land, a decision which, more than any other, is now fuelling Shanghai’s rocket-like economic advance. The skyline has since been completely transformed from a stream of rice paddies into a sea of cranes, and ultimately a maze of skyscrapers that seemingly stretches east as far as the eye can see.

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