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Before working as Associate Editor of Time Out Shanghai, Sam Gaskin was a futurist for the New Zealand government. He maps out five big changes in the pipeline for Shanghai society...
By 2050 China’s total population will have dropped by around 4 million having peaked at 1.5 billion in 2035. Shanghai’s municipal population, however, will more than double from 23.2 million to over 50 million on the back of massive urbanisation. It was only in the last few years that the number of Chinese living in cities exceeded the number living in the country. By 2062 city-dwellers will make up more than 70 per cent of the population, and the rifts between Shanghai locals and waidiren (outsiders) will grow.
With sub-replacement fertility rates (despite government incentives programmes – ‘guaranteed rent control for families with three or more children!’ and rising life expectancies (from 73 to 80 by 2050), Shanghai’s population will age rapidly. By 2050, for every 100 working-age Chinese, there will be roughly 60 elderly Chinese to take care of, compared to 20 in 2008. As Chinese social mores becomes more globalised, the sense of filial responsibility will decline, with many old’uns being shipped off to retirement villages in central and southern China, Australia and New Zealand, rather than staying on in their sons and daughters’ spare rooms to watch reruns of 2030s ‘reality cinema’.
Shanghai’s growth over the next 50 years will be so rapid that there’s no choice but for it to expand both out and up. Population density will go way up, as will the city’s skyscrapers. Shanghai will become a centre of stratosphere-scraper building to rival Chicago’s sky-scraper boom in the 20th Century, with seven buildings, split among Lujiazui, People’s Square and Xujiahui, holding the title of world’s tallest building at some point between 2035 and 2062. Over this period, Shanghai will also make repeated claims to having the most bacteria/virus resistant buildings, terrorist proof buildings, the largest shopping mall, etc.
The compromise on personal liberties that Chinese citizens permitted as their incomes and quality of life rapidly improved at the start of the century became tenuous as economic growth slowed in the mid 2030s, at which point (prompted by a few violent protests) the rate of liberalisation increased. Freedoms permitted in 2062 that don’t exist today include: prostitution (2018); gay marriage (2020); marijuana (2028); polygamy (2030); a whole bunch of drugs you can’t yet comprehend (2040-2060).
Pornography, cybernetic plug-ins, and robots will be increasingly viable alternatives to human-to-human sexual intercourse, providing ways for people to opt out of messy, difficult emotional relationships with humans. Old fashioned coupling will remain more prevalent than not, although the average age at first marriage/union will be 40. A shortage of Chinese women will mean that numerous advanced dating algorithms and services are in place to unite Chinese men and foreign women. Making the most of the favourable demographics, many women keep several male partners.