From Time's Bill Powell's article "The Short March" on buying and moving to a Shanghai suburb:
"There is only one Shanghai in China," he said. "People want to come here from all over the country. People need good quality housing at a decent price, and that will continue to be true for a long, long time. Sure, there might be periods where the market slows down a bit; but the underlying things that are driving it, no, they won't slow down." There are about 20 million people in Shanghai now, Guo noted. In 20 years, he said, that number could easily double.
And that's where the simple comparison to the U.S. after 1945 breaks down. Journalist turned businessman Jim McGregor, one of the most astute observers of modern China, says that the country is cramming three different eras of U.S. history into one. In U.S. terms, the postwar prosperity that fueled the flight to the suburbs is happening at the same time as the 19th century Industrial Revolution that lured people from the farm to the cities, and also as Progressive Era efforts to rein in the worst abuses of capitalism take shape. I asked Guo if he agreed. He nodded, but added a caveat: "What's different about China is the sheer scale of things. The simple fact is there are still 800-900 million people living in poor, agricultural provinces. That's about three times the population of the United States."
Guo, suffice to say, doesn't believe you can keep them down on the farm, and neither does anyone else. So people will continue to pour into Shanghai — and other major cities — and a good portion of the middle class will escape to the suburbs as the cities grow ever more crowded. So no, Guo added, he doesn't lose sleep over the prospect of real estate booms and busts here. "And neither," he added, smiling broadly, "should you."