In 1992, Beijing let go its tax stranglehold on this legendary port city, setting it on an aggressive course to becoming the financial capital of China.

Today, with a population more than 14 million, Shanghai, like other major Chinese cities, is fighting crime waves more typical of financial capitals in the West.

Last month Kevin Kong, a senior debt-financing officer in the Hong Kong branch of Credit Lyonnais, was murdered in his hotel room in Guixi, a city in the southeastern Jiangxi province.

In adjacent Guangdong province last March, a consultant for Corning Inc. was stabbed to death in his room in the five-star Shangri-La Hotel.

The implications of such high-profile crimes are not lost on Mayor Xu Kuangdi, who is set on making the center of Shanghai the Wall Street of China while attracting foreign investment to trade zones outside the city.

Under Mr. Xu, Shanghai is spending billions of dollars on projects like a new subway, an elevated highway, bridges, and tunnels.

But though Mr. Xu is working to make his city safe for capitalists, he grows hesitant when asked whether he supports the capitalist system.

"Oh, no," he replies. "That is still very dangerous in China."

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