Would you agree with the following descriptions of Shanghai? First this:
Across the bar, a Belgian man with his forearm in plaster is talking about when the Armani boutique opened: “You should have seen all the rich Chinese with their pretty girlfriends buying leather jackets – but it’s sad,” he says, “Shanghai never used to be this hip, so hip it’s starting to get annoying, you know what I mean?”
Or how about this one:
This is post-colonial, post-Mao Shanghai, elegant and filthy, open all hours, special discount, number one genuine imitation, the baffling metropolis, contradictory and thrilling.
Sometimes Shanghai is China, sometimes not. It is a police state and a shopper’s paradise. In a vast subterranean restaurant, waiters in white face-masks descend trundling escalators, wheeling trollies laden with Peking Duck to be carved table-side for the salarymen.
And lastly, towards the end of the article, we found this:
“The big capitalist powers forced China into overseas trade after the Opium Wars so the Qing emperor signed the unfair  Treaty of Nanjing,” says the centre’s guide, Vivian Suen Xiao Lan, 23, wearing high-heeled shoes sparkling with sequinned bows.
“While the Chinese people suffered humiliations, Shanghai was also forced into earth-shaking transformations, but during World War I because the big powers were preoccupied with the war, they neglected the economic exploitation of China, allowing China to develop.”
Vivian is part of the city’s riddle. Her shoes may glitter, but she is a Shanghai Miss with the soul of a Red Guard, reciting her propaganda by rote.
Propaganda was never good to us, but we do feel a little twinge of pity for Vivian, as “Shanghai Miss” and “Red Guard” have, and correct us if we’re wrong, largely pejorative meanings. Personally, we’d be somewhat pissed if someone said we had the “soul of a Red Guard” — if they said we had the go get ’em, can-do attitude or ruddy cheeks of a Red Guard, we’d probably take it as a compliment, but that “soul” remark is just a tad tendentious for our tastes.
Oh, and don’t forget the caption under the photograph: “Smog hangs permanently over Shanghai, but as it is a police state the streets are always clean.” As if being a “police state” has anything to do with the cleanliness of the streets! According to that logic, the upper reaches of Jing’an district must be democratic, or perhaps anarchist, for how else would you explain the eau de sewage wafting from puddles of primal soup (whose color changes everyday) on the ground? Where are the MIDI musak playing street sweeping machines when you need them?
Read the entire article here.
Photo from Oldtasty’s Flickr page.