Production, Creative Firms and Urban Space in Shanghai


  • Sheng Zhong East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore



Shanghai, creative industries, new economy spaces, inner city, market, the state


This paper examines the firms in Shanghai’s official “Creative Industry Clusters (CICs)”. It aims to contribute to the creative city debate by unveiling the relationships between the production of new economy firms and the reconstruction of urban space in the Chinese context. Based on questionnaire surveys conducted in 2009, the paper finds that Shanghai’s creative firms are new, small and flexible and this image conforms to the prototypical “creative firms” described in widely cited Western literature. The paper argues that Shanghai’s CICs represent a market- oriented, fluid, and risk-taking production culture that is a break from the city’s socialist past. However, Shanghai’s new economy spaces in the making are faced with many constraints and contradictions. On the one hand, although market and neoliberalized urban spaces are providing critical resources for firms to grow at a time of state retreat, they also imposes risks, such as career instability, confusion for creative talents and cost pressure for new firms. On the other hand, the state’s ideological control reinforces the market’s homogenizing effect on cultural production. Therefore, Shanghai’s trajectory toward greater innovation and creativity are far from guaranteed despite fast proliferation of creative clusters in the city in the past decade.


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How to Cite

Zhong, S. (2011) “Production, Creative Firms and Urban Space in Shanghai”, Culture Unbound, 4(1), pp. 169–191. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.124169.



Theme: Shanghai Modern: The Future in Microcosm?