Shanghai Future

Modernity Remade

September 2014 9781849043274 240pp
Temporarily out of stock
September 2014 9781849043601 240pp


China is in the midst of the fastest and most intense process of urbanisation the world has ever known, and Shanghai — its biggest, richest and most cosmopolitan city — is positioned for acceleration into the twenty-first century.

Yet, in its embrace of a hopeful — even exultant — futurism, Shanghai recalls the older and much criticised project of imagining, planning and building the modern metropolis. Today, among Westerners, at least, the very idea of the futuristic city — with its multilayered skyways, domestic robots and flying cars — seems doomed to the realm of nostalgia, the sadly comic promise of a future that failed to materialise.

Shanghai Future maps the city of tomorrow as it resurfaces in a new time and place. It searches for the contours of an unknown and unfamiliar futurism in the city’s street markets as well as in its skyscrapers. For though it recalls the modernity of an earlier age, Shanghai’s current re-emergence is only superficially based on mimicry. Rather, in seeking to fulfill its ambitions, the giant metropolis is reinventing the very idea of the future itself. As it modernises, Shanghai is necessarily recreating what it is to be modern.


‘An illuminating primer on Shanghai.’ — LA Review of Books

‘This is a fascinating and highly original book — a difficult achievement given how much has been written about Shanghai in recent years by both journalists and scholars. The author contributes not only to the literature on contemporary China and conversations about the nature of Chinese modernity, but also to interdisciplinary debates in urban studies and philosophical and literary discussions of the future. Shanghai Future should find interested readers in fields ranging from Chinese studies to urban studies, cultural geography to science fiction studies.’ — Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know

‘In the boom of writing on Shanghai Greenspan’s work stands out for its depth and originality. There is much written about Shanghai’s past, but this original text explores how Shanghai represents its own and our collective human futures. A fascinating collection of musings and empirical explorations of the projection of the future onto Shanghai’s cityscapes.’ — James Farrer, Professor of Sociology at Sophia University and author of Opening Up: Youth Sex Culture and Market Reform in Shanghai

‘This is a fascinating narrative of Shanghai’s urban and cultural changes, reflecting the process of Chinese ubiquitous modernisation. Anna Greenspan’s keen observations on the history of Shanghai and its current transformation provide insightful understandings of the making of modernity in China, like Paris to modern capitalism. The specificity of urban cultural studies is artfully examined from a perspective of national development. A book which profoundly enriches China’s urban studies.’ — Fulong Wu, Bartlett Professor of Planning, University College London and author of China’s Emerging Cities: The Making of New Urbanism

‘Shanghai is a global metropolis that constantly seeks to outdo itself. Those who arrive in the city for the first time are routinely shocked and awed by its dizzying skyline, bursting urbanism, and glaring ambitions. Anna Greenspan uses this adopted home to delve into the intriguing question of the future city. Drawing on a wide range of materials and first-hand observations, Greenspan convincingly shows how Shanghai and China will continue to reshape the world and redefine our imaginations of the future.’  — Tong Lam, author of Abandoned Futures and A Passion for Facts

‘Challenging the notion that modernisation must equal westernisation, Greenspan brilliantly outlines a Shanghai future that is spiralling out from a unique alliance of the old and the new, the road and the street, the planned and the unplanned, the dense and the sprawling, and between gleaming hi-tech skyscrapers and dynamic street-markets, each with their own, very different, high intensity trading cultures. An indispensable primer for the Chinese century.’ — Steve Goodman, independent researcher and author of Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear

‘Anna Greenspan’s Shanghai Future features an astonishing range of facets — of depth, breadth and surprise — worthy of the city she’s lived in for more than a decade. She combines an obviously close look at the city streets, born of incessant walking through them, with a prodigious study of the literature of urbanization and modernity.’ — Asian Review of Books

‘Shanghai Future is an exceptionally researched book filled with quotes from and references to urban philosophers, Chinese poets, architects, designer, urban planners, academics, documentary directors, cyberpunk theorists and old China hands… The book allows Shanghai to be seen as an organism, a unique Chinese character that has awoken from a state of hibernation.’ — Sara Naumann,


Anna Greenspan is a Shanghai-based philosopher who focuses on urbanism and digital culture. She teaches at New York University in Shanghai.

Request an academic inspection copy Request a press review copy
Inspection Copy Request
Review Copy Request
Join our mailing list

Subscribers receive exclusive discounts and early access to new books from Hurst.