This sounds like a cool job: go out and search for a Shanghai’s soul. That’s what this reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald was sent to do. However, in the course of this he makes some observations that we found debatable, or in other cases, flat-out wrong. Here’s one part of it:
There have been some incidents of young Westerners being set upon by gangs of young Chinese ultra-nationalists in the past year or two, and there is a serious danger to your wallet but, by and large, Shanghai is a safe and wholesome city these days.
Call me cynical, or maybe an ingenue who naively walks past the gateways to the underworld, but the new cosmopolitan nightlife of Shanghai is a contrived theme park: we are in Shanghai, so let’s play at 1930s decadence.
And for all the fabulous towers, art venues and infrastructure being built by Shanghai’s government, there’s an increasingly obvious emptiness about this city of 17 million people.
As the no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch economist Milton Friedman said, on being shown Pudong in 1998: “Monuments to a dead pharaoh.” It was a reference to Deng Xiaoping, the late communist leader who launched the “get rich” craze.
Shanghai is simply failing to fulfil its ambitions. The financial sector, which was supposed to be filling all these marvellous towers with bankers and brokers for all of East Asia, has atrophied.
We have to politely disagree with some of his statements here. First off, could you get a blowjob outside a seedy bar to an eardrum bursting techno-soundtrack back in 1930? Of course not. That’s not copying decadence. You can’t copy the decadence of another era or another culture. We here in Shanghai strive to create a unique stye of decadence that is in keeping with the times we live in. As for the “obvious emptiness” — well, isn’t that better than being hypocritical and disingenuous about our “emptiness?” We long ago learned to embrace our inner emptiness, and we’re not going to pretend to be what we’re not, not for the reporter Mr. McDonald, not for nobody.
Picture from home.swipnet.se.