The Beijing-Shanghai rivalry received some international media attention earlier this week, and the prognosis wasn’t good. The
Washington Post writes that while Shanghai has the global industry, business and sophistication stemming from early European colonialism, Beijing has the upper hand, at least in this round. The two reasons: the government and the Olympics. The historic city of emperors, modern capital and center of CCP power, Beijing’s status as China’s political hub is undeniable. As for the Olympics, for all the hassle (most recently here, here and here) they cause, they bring major opportunities to a city that is preparing to bask in the spotlight. The projected intensity of the global gaze only increases after Monday’s announcement that this year’s games will, for the first time, be streamed online in real time.
Despite “losing” this bout of the ancient inter-city competition, Shanghai (as always) doesn’t lack for confidence: Beijing may be getting all the attention, but Shanghai’s got all the attitude.
For all their bravado, Shanghai’s 20 million people know it’s true: They have missed out. Nevertheless, they cling to the belief that, compared with their own polished and cosmopolitan selves, Beijingers are like country cousins — warmhearted, perhaps, but bumptious, ill-mannered and prone to drinking too much rice wine in their dusty hutongs.
“Shanghai has always been a more cultured city than Beijing,” said Wang Huijiu, 41, who runs a small antiques shop just off the Bund, the avenue running alongside the Huangpu River where European banks built their elegant Asian headquarters before World War II. “The British came here. The French came here. They all left their imprints. And so Shanghai is more open than Beijing. Beijing people are a little crude.”