Over the past millennium, Shanghai transformed from a relatively insignificant market town and county capital into a major global metropolis. A combination of technical advances in agriculture, waterway management, and the natural changes in the course of some rivers and the silting of others led, in 1292, to the founding of the county capital Shanghai. The town went through alternate periods of growth and stagnation, but by the mid-19th century, it was an international trading hub with a population of a quarter of a million people. One of the turning points in its history came in 1842, the year that the Treaty of Nanking was signed by the Qing Empire and the United Kingdom and the Treaty Port of Shanghai opened up. Over the following century, Shanghai was divided into three main sections, each operating under its own laws and regulations: the International Settlement, the French Concession, and the Chinese city. In the 1930s, the fate of the city fell into the hands of yet another foreign power: Japan. After Japan’s surrender on 15 August 1945, Chinese nationalists and communists continued their struggle for control of the city for another four years until the People’s Liberation Army “liberated” Shanghai on 25 May 1949.
To trace the Soviet legacy in Central Asia is to trace the contours of a complex, multifaceted, and in many ways unfinished process. Between the advent of Russian imperial rule in the late 19th century and the collapse of Soviet power in 1991, the dynastic monarchies and nomadic federations of Central Asia were subdued, and the region was refashioned first into a European settler colony and then into industrialized national republics. Everything from political geography and institutions, economic patterns, urban patterns, and normative identities were indelibly shaped by the Soviet experience. Despite the legacies of the Soviet period, however, each of the states of Central Asia has also followed its own distinct trajectory since 1991, complicating the search for a coherent regional narrative. All of the post-Soviet states of Central Asia share certain common political, economic, and cultural “inheritances,” but their divergent histories since 1991 highlight not only the enduring significance of this shared patrimony, but also their remarkably different responses and trajectories since 1991.
Despite important continuities in imperial practices and bureaucratic structures, the spatial organization of Chinese government and society evolved in significant ways over the course of the two millenniums of the imperial period (221 bce–1911 ce). Different dynasties were structured in very different ways, some controlling only the agricultural zone of “China Proper,” or portions thereof, and some establishing distinct administrations to exert authority over the jungles, mountains, deserts, and steppe lands on the peripheral exterior. Successive regimes turned to a range of strategies to maintain order in the interior, collect tax revenue, and supply both the enormous population inhabiting the capital and the armies defending the frontiers. In addition, by the beginning of the 2nd millennium ce, there was a noticeable trend toward greater economic and cultural integration across China’s vast territory. A range of factors explain this trend, including the intensification of marketing networks following a medieval commercial revolution, a “localist turn” that spurred a decentralization of the imperial elite, and changes in how policymakers envisioned the nature of their state.