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2024 | Book

A Tale of Three Cities

Urban Governance of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore During COVID-19


About this book

The proposed book presents the cutting-edge research on the urban development of three cities: Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore. By comparing their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic from an international political economic perspective, this book examines the commonalities and differences in urban governance in these three widely recognized and well-developed Asian cities with outward-oriented economies through the lens of world-systems theory and related theories of historicism. These cities are all generally considered to be under authoritarian regimes, but there are substantial differences in their social systems, rules of law and justice, and administrative structures.

In the context of globalization, the cities are competing on a more even playing field. In addition, city governments worldwide are increasingly pursuing growth, land markets, urban regeneration, and large-scale public projects. With the advent of globalization, urban development is gradually changing from the past crude model of spatial expansion and land finance to a more refined model of socioeconomic development driven by industrial upgrading and enhanced consumption. However, cities’ political and economic contexts and governance systems vary greatly. Unsurprisingly, given their differences, the three cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore demonstrated varied responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This book discusses the efforts of these governments to address and reduce the spread of COVID-19 as well as how national responses to the pandemic outbreak were influenced by global dynamics, geopolitics, and each nation’s particular historical context.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Dynamic Clearing or Coexistence? A Tale of Three Cities and Their COVID-19 Responses
The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to spread and evolve around the world. Individual country responses to the virus, and the state preparedness of local public health systems vary greatly across the countries. Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore are the three most prominent metropolises and open economies in Asia. The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed people’s life and caused tremendously impact to the society and economy. Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore, three Asian cities of similar sizes, share many common features including a shared common history with SARS, quick response on implementing public health measures, and advanced medical systems, all these factors are believed to have contributed to their relatively effective response in combating COVID-19. These three cities had similar containment measures and demonstrated outstanding achievements in the early phase of epidemic prevention, keeping both the number of cases and deaths relatively under control. However, in 2022, all three cities experienced a tremendous impact of Omicron variant, with more than 10,000 people diagnosed per day. Due to the high transmissibility and high risk of infection of Omicron, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore eventually chose different paths to contain the virus. This chapter compares the early pandemic response in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. This chapter also reviews the anti-epidemic stories of the three cities and explores how their COVID-19 responses changed.
Edmund Li Sheng
Chapter 2. Divergence of Anti-pandemic Policies: Origin and Development
Looking back to the COVID-19 prevention and control strategies in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore, these three megacities have developed different paths from the similar strict control policy at the very beginning of pandemic. All three cities had reduced the number of infections and deaths through strict quarantine measures during the early phase of outbreak. As the epidemic continued to evolve, however, they eventually chose divergent response strategies and told totally different stories. This chapter will examine the divergence of anti-pandemic policies among these three cities, and the reasons, and explore the tug-of-war between science and politics in the process of decision-making.
Edmund Li Sheng
Chapter 3. Differences and Similarities in Urban Governance During the Pandemic
The pandemic is not only a global humanitarian and economic crisis (United Nations. (2020). Global Humanitarian Response Plan COVID-19. https://​www.​unocha.​org/​sites/​unocha/​files/​Global-Humanitarian-Response-Plan-COVID-19.​pdf), but also a public governance challenge. Global governance has been challenged by COVID-19's prolonged and frequent impacts. For the largest cities among them, the difficulty of this challenge is even more pronounced, thus testing the ability of the government to govern even more. The executive-led political system seems to have enabled Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore to demonstrate a high level of resilience in the early stages of outbreak management, but it also presents hidden concerns. Moreover, pandemic governance approaches and decision-making are not only challenges of a region's rule of law and justice, but also rigorous tests of their governance capability. This chapter emphasized the importance of proactive actions, transparency, effective communication, and a clear accountability structure. Clear and transparent communication with the public is critically important.
Edmund Li Sheng
Chapter 4. Crisis Management During the Pandemic
While the COVID-19 pandemic has hit different countries with varying intensity, responding to the crisis has presented an unprecedented challenge to most governments, both in scale and in the depth of impact on health, on the economy and on citizens’ well-being. At the same time, the pandemic has brought structural and social issues to light, such as the erosion of public trust in government. The global epidemic of COVID-19 is one of the most noteworthy crises in public health and global affairs in recent years and has launched a challenge to the ability of governments and societies to respond to the crisis. In today's globalized world, COVID-19 will not be an isolated crisis, nor will it be the last ordeal of human society and global governance. How to win public trust, how to consider information transparency, and how to reasonably respond to the various “black swan” and “gray rhino” events that come one after another have become challenging problems that governments must face.
Edmund Li Sheng
Chapter 5. Revitalization: New Opportunities and Challenges in the Post-pandemic Era
After dozens of months, the COVID-19 outbreak appears to be on its way to easing. In the post-epidemic era, three leading Asian cities have kicked off a new round of competition and growth, although they are on different paths. Shanghai, like other mainland cities, is trying to increase its expectations of domestic economic cycles. Hong Kong, for its part, is tending to move closer to Beijing as a core city in the Greater Bay Area in the wake of the political turmoil. Singapore, on the other hand, is more aggressive, trying to get more talent and capital to further enhance its competitiveness.
Edmund Li Sheng
Chapter 6. Future Frontiers: A Tale of Three Cities and the World
Over the past few decades, emerging and developing Asian markets have driven the global economy, and a new segment of global influence is taking shape. As the three core cities and economic centers of Asia, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore have been potential competitors. In the post-epidemic era, how to maintain the competitiveness of the cities and stay ahead of the competition for talent and resources is a challenge that all three cities need to face. While competing and cooperating with each other to expand their competitive advantages, the three Asian cities should also work together to enhance Asia’s international appeal.
Edmund Li Sheng
A Tale of Three Cities
Edmund Li Sheng
Copyright Year
Springer Nature Singapore
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN