Monday, March 05, 2007


Had to make an unplanned visit to Shanghai for business right after the Chinese New Year break. What can I say? Not having been to Shanghai before, and flying into cold, grey, Shanghai just when stock markets plummeted gave us a little more to talk about. My client commented that Shanghai’s come of age, so to speak: “Now when Shanghai sneezes, US and the rest of the world catch a cold - and not the other way round.”

Shanghai is huge, sprawling. Very busy. There’s a kind of frenzy in the air, the sort that’s typical of a nation playing catch-up. And catch-up Shanghai has. Bicycles whizz by, as if inexplicably misdirected into the wrong movie, while vehicles of all shapes and sizes trundle along, honking all the time without a care. And the buildings - talk about a concrete jungle! Hard to imagine that a lot of the skyscrapers came up only in the last 20 years. We were told that some 6,000 more apartment buildings under 20 stories were presently in the works.

Had dinner at a restaurant (forget the name but there was a long queue waiting to be seated) at Xin Tian Di, Shanghai’s new stylish entertainment district. Great food! Xin Tian Di is an astonishing redevelopment project that’s touted as the model of new China. It's pretty much succeeded at preserving its architectural heritage while flashing its newfound capitalistic visage. The place to be, for sure - for people watching too, what with people from all over the world congregating there.

I was amused when our Chinese host pointed out a brick brownstone building in the middle of trendy drinking holes, clubs, eateries, and fashion boutiques, and told me without a hint of irony that it was here that Chairman Mao met with his comrades to form the communist party. It’s a museum now. Would love to have a look if I ever get to come by this way again.

We didn’t have much time to actually go around but we did pay the obligatory visit to the Bund after dinner, when it’s supposed to be prettiest. The stately colonial-era buildings fronting the Huangpu River mostly house top luxury brands such as Armani. You look around and you tell yourself: for better or worse, the Dragon's awaken.

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