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APRIL 15 – 30, 1996


Shanghai, present and past


Shanghai throbs with life, commerce and construction. Everywhere you look there are  gleaming towers reaching up to the sky and giant cranes see in to lift half-finished

constructions even higher. Interspersed among the high-rises are old homes and grand Victorian buildings that once housed the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank and the Customs House. Shanghai, today, provides one-tenth of the revenue of China and the plan is to

make it a major world class financial center on the lines of Tokyo and Singapore. Politically, its importance is demonstrated by the fact a number of current party leaders are from  Shanghai. The party secretary and president of China, Jiang Zhemin, was the mayor and party secretary of Shanghai. Zhu Rungji, the vice premier in charge of economy, often referred to as China’s “Economic Tsar” was also once mayor and party secretary of Shanghai. Smartly turned out Chinese in Western clothes shop for bargains  in Shanghai’s busiest street, Nanjing

Lu, which stretches for six miles. At a nearby Friendship store, shoppers are treated to Western designer clothes, cosmetics and fragrances with familiar names like Elizabeth Arden.

The Chinese are renowned for their hospitality. A working lunch can extend over two hours with countless courses. The most exotic dish was a two-foot-long, freshly killed lobster with the meat served raw. A culinary delight for many, but I had to pass.

The Shanghai airport is new and glitzy and signs in Chinese and English proclaim the achievements. Outside the ladies’ restroom, a sign reads, “Shanghai Joint Establishment for ‘Civilization at the Airport.”’ Inside the toilet stalls a sign recommends, “Timely Rinse After Use.” At drinking water fountains, for those wary of water quality in developing countries, a

reassuring sign reads, “Passed by Quarantine Authorities.”