Shanghaiist has been living in this town for five years now, and while we often get the “哇！你是老上海了！“ (“Wow, you’re an old Shanghai hand”) remark, there are days when we think we actually moved here too late (sadistic thought, some might say). Although we have witnessed some pretty breathtaking changes ourselves, we have to defer to the experience of Chris Devonshire-Ellis of China Briefing who founded his own law firm 15 years ago in his spare bedroom. Here is how he described China then:
… Deng Xiaoping was China’s Premier, George H.W. Bush the U.S. president, while Chris Patten had just arrived in Hong Kong as Governor. U.S. trade with China at the time was US$33.15 billion while the RMB traded at 5.436 to the U.S. dollar. Foreigners in China were not allowed to use RMB. Foreign Exchange Certificates were the currency for all visitors, and China’s “Friendship Stores” carried the only available luxury goods – Johnnie Walker Red Label, and Marlboro cigarettes. Shanghai was closed by 9pm, and a fax machine arriving at Beijing’s Jianguo Hotel business centre was a major communications event. All international flights to Shanghai arrived at Hongqiao, and the only snacks on offer at Beijing’s airport consisted of dried noodles, made edible by using boiling hot water from a Russian silver plated samovar at the end of the only terminal. Bicycles ruled the road, and donkeys and carts were often seen trotting along the road to the Beijing airport.
Wow, the RMB at 5.436 to the dollar! We would love to see that happen again sometime! But apart from that, can you not help but marvel at how fast China has changed?
Photo taken in 1992 by Yimou