One has to admire the nerviness of the Chinese. After declaring that their city would rival New York as a financial capital by 2020, Shanghai leaders commissioned a near-replica Beast of Bowling Green to grace the city's waterfront. Though appropriately a bit redder than the original, the new bull is reportedly about the same size as its inspiration. It is scheduled to be unveiled next week at the Shanghai World Expo, an event which will be attended by the creator of both sculptures, Arturo DiModica.
Though merely a sculpture, the bull will be seen by many as a symbol of the relentless forward progress of the Chinese people. And rightly so. Shanghai is no New York, nor is it London, and it is unlikely to be so by 2020. However, titles and status are transient by nature. It was not so long ago that Wall St. literally served as a defense against Native Americans, and it is now, depending on the list, the first or second largest financial center. Additionally, the rise of The City is paved with continental counterparts who could at one time or another make legitimate claims to being the 'financial capital of the world.' The stories of the current top financial centers underscores the sometimes fleeting nature of such titles given the benefit of temporal perspective. By the same token it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that the financial leader of the fastest growing nation on earth will, within decades, be able to claim the mantle of the world's greatest financial center.
The financial crisis, Wall St. scandals, and recent fraud charges levelled against Goldman Sachs have prompted many Americans to focus on internal issues as regulators, politicians and bankers struggle to determine how the US financial system should be structured and governed. However, despite current headlines, the powers that be should not lose sight of the fact that, in the long term, it may not be internal forces that pose the largest threats to New York's global status.
In light of this threat, and with financial reform seemingly inevitable, politicians may need to make some tough decisions about whether it is more important to plan for the future or to play politics in a populist overreaction to what are admittedly recent excesses. Unfortunately, though there is hope for the former, history and rhetoric perhaps point to the latter.
UPDATE: Pictures from the upcoming fair...