Five thousand miles, two continents and

the largest unpopulated lowlands on earth

are not enough earth to break the unity that

Liverpool and Shanghai share.


Twinned in 1999, the two cities, although

a seemingly unlikely partnership, are

connected by dozens of similarities,

some of which originate from hundreds of

years ago.


Most notable is the rich shipping trade that

both cities experienced in the 18th, 19th

and 20th Centuries. Their positioning on

major rivers, the Mersey and HuangPu,

make them ideal locations for building ports as well as importing and exporting goods. In the 19th century, 40% of the world’s trade passed through the Liverpool docks, which greatly helped the city’s expansion.  Today, Shanghai exists as the busiest port in the world, dealing with the largest amount of cargo each year.


With this come the cities’ stunning waterfronts, which both date back from the early 20th Century and make them just like real twins. Liverpool is home to the iconic Liver Building, one of the most recognisable buildings in the city. In Shanghai, the Bund’s gothic, renaissance, baroque and neo-classical buildings are home to the Asia branch of the world’s biggest companies, including AIG insurance.


Similarly, both cities are also key economic centres for commerce and 35 of the world’s Fortune 500 companies call Shanghai their Asian home. Liverpool, although having suffered gradual economic decline in the late half of the 20th Century, is now one of the largest office markets in the UK. Each city has undergone massive urban renewal and regeneration to get to where they are today.


But it isn’t just history and shipping tales that the

cities share: there are in fact many more trivial and

usual likenesses between Liverpool and Shanghai.


First are the strong local dialects that their citizens

speak. Similar to Liverpool’s defining Scouse

accent, Shanghai locals speak ‘Shanghainese’,

which is a slang equivalent of Mandarin. This accent

is usually found along the elder generation of

Chinese people who have been living in the city

since the darker days of Chairman Mao’s leadership.

The best advice is to don’t try and speak Mandarin

to Shanghai taxi drivers and elderly shop owners

as a tourist’s Mandarin is far too prim and proper.

Hand actions, pointing, simple words and a few

nods of the head will just have to do…


Another bizarre parallel is the people’s interesting penchant for wearing nightwear during the day and outdoors.  Shanghai locals, who don’t have an air conditioned home normally wear pyjamas and nighties throughout the summer as the loose fitting clothing helps in the humid temperature. However, younger people wouldn’t be seen outside their bedroom door, never mind on the streets, in their PJs. In resemblance some Liverpool lasses I know love a stroll to the shops in their bedtime attire, although perhaps as more of a fashion statement instead.


And it seems clear that Liverpool’s ladies’ obsession for designer handbags and clobber is mirrored in Shanghai, where there are more designer shops than you can shake a platinum card at. Whilst Liverpool has the renowned ‘Cricket’ boutique and Met Quarter, Shanghai has Plaza 66, a six storey metropolis where you can pick up the latest Jimmy Choos and Stella McCartney clothing.


Clothing, however, is only just the start of creating the perfect

image for which Liverpool and Shanghai women spend a great

deal of time on. Rather bizarrely, the two cities share an

addiction for skin colouring agents – but on opposite ends of the

tanning spectrum. Whilst in Liverpool the roads are packed with

tanning salons and sun centres, in Shanghai the ladies flock to

the pharmacy for skin whitening treatments. That’s right – the

whiter the better – as this implies wealth because you aren’t a

farm worker, grafting in the sun all day! So obsessed are they

with achieving the whitest skin colour that they carry umbrellas

to shield themselves from the sunshine and wear flowing clothes

during the summer.


Finally… Who can forget Liverpool and Everton FC, two teams

so passionately loved by Scousers and fans from all over the

country? Yes, Shanghai is just as obsessed with football and

their beloved Shanghai Shenhua FC. Over 33,000 people

descend upon the Hongkou stadium every weekend for 90

minutes of the best football around. Having finished first in the

premier league every year since 1994, I think it’s safe to say they’re the best team in the East.


Admittedly, Shanghai is far more excessive than Liverpool, which is something you might expect from China’s hub of industry, commerce, trade, finance and shipping. Yet, although different in size and international recognition, the cities are uncanny in the way they both prosper and grow today. Add to this the unique people who call each city home, and it’s obvious that there are real links between the twins today, and not just memories written in history.  



















Shanghai: the twin you never knew we had?


By Lara Richards

News Editor

Related stories

Shanghai in pictures


In the first in her series of features on Shanghai, Lara explores the remarkable connections between Liverpool and its twin city in China. Look... they've even copied our famous skyline!

Look familiar? Shanghai's Bund is just like the Liver Building

Shanghai picture © Pete Harlow: Catnip Corner Photography

Nanjing Lu shopping

Looks more like New York from this angle...

Picture by Lara Richards

Puxi at dusk

Nanjing Lu shopping at night

Picture by Lara Richards

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