Local Shops in Global Shanghai

Shanghai has been “rising” as a global city since the early 1990s. Its glitzing skyscrapers and glamorous malls now dominate the urban landscape. Yet small ordinary local shops, which date back to Shanghai’s first cosmopolitan era of the 1920s and disappeared after 1949, have re-emerged across the city, amounting to a massive commercial development from below. Why and how have local shops developed during the large-scale urban transformations planned and driven by a strong state? How do local shops in Shanghai differ from their counterparts in the five other global cities in this transnational comparative project and its resultant book?

To address these and other questions, a small research team of Shanghai and U.S.-based sociologists have completed a comparative study of two distinctive shopping streets—Tianzifang and Minxinglu—located in the downtown and outlying areas of Shanghai respectively. An exclusive zone of art studios, boutique shops, and high-end cafes, Tianzifang caters to international tourists and wealthy local consumers primarily. A linear street occupied by convenience stores, cheap eateries, and other small businesses owned by migrants, Minxinglu serves the daily needs of the lower-income local community. The research has shown that despite these important differences reflecting the diversity of local shops, both Tianzifang and Minxinglu are shaped by the structural forces of globalization, migration, and the strong state. Moreover, Tianzifang and Minxinglu have evolved into local commercial and social spaces that endure or thrive as an integral part of communal life in global Shanghai.

Xiangming Chen


Gallery with photos from Shanghai:

Tianzifang before 1949 2

Tianzifang old factory map

A Tianzifang lane before development

Woo scarf shop

Neighborhoold life before development

Tianzifang a lane in 2004

Tianzifang development signing ceremony

Tianzifang development forum 2004

Tianzifang heritage map

Disappearing Shikumen houses

Building Tianzifang 2

Tianzifang tourist map

Uban Tribe TZF 2

Barber shop with customer

Lanzhou noodles shop owners

TZF main entrance

Tianzifang alleys


Tianzifang planning map

Tianzifang a partialy developed lane


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Photos from the Local Shops Workshop, Shanghai, and researchers:

Sharon Zukin and Yu Hai in Minxinglu Barbershop

Yu Hai and Sharon Zukin with a graduate assistant on Minxing Road

Workshop participants and friends

Taping of Yu Hai with Cafe Dan owner at Tianzifang

Field trip to Tianzifang with local official

Sharon, Sunmee, Phil, Takashi


Christine's presentation on Berlin


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Photos from talk at the Center for Modern Chinese City Studies at East China Normal University, Shanghai, October 22, 2015:

Book talk with faculty and model

Book talk photo 2

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Here is the link to a feature (in Chinese) about the book talk at East China Normal University, Shanghai, October 22, 2015.


Photos of Xiangming Chen’s presentation on the Chinese edition of the book at the Global Cities Forum at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), Shanghai, October 30, 2016:







The program of the Global Cities Forum where Chen presented the book is here.


Chen was the main speaker about the book at Tongji University, Shanghai, December 23, 2016.

Tongji talk 10

Tongji talk 11

Tongji talk 9

Tongji talk 8

Tongji talk 7

Tongji talk 6

Tongji talk 5

Tongji talk 4

Tongji talk 3

Tongji talk 1

Tongji talk 2


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Chen was the main speaker about the book at Bancheng Bookstore, Shanghai, December 24, 2016.

BC talk 7

BC talk 5

BC talk 6

BC talk 4

BC talk 3

BC talk 2

BC talk 1


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A detailed report about this event in Chinese is here.


Chen spoke about the book at Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, January 11, 2017.

BASS talk 5

BASS talk 6

BASS talk 4

BASS talk 3

BASS talk 2

BASS talk 1


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Tianzifang video

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