THE EARTH TIMES
APRIL 15 – 30, 1996
Shanghai, present and past
By Ashali Varma
Shanghai throbs with life, commerce and construction. Everywhere you look there are gleaming towers reaching up to the sky and giant cranes seem 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.”