In Praise of Shanghai
The evening before I left I went for a walk in the park near my hotel. There was music playing, I suspect from a boom box, and couples, many of them middle aged, dancing to it, not very well. In the same park the next morning there were people doing tai chi exercises, others doing slow motion dance moves, in groups, to music. The feel of the place is almost the precise opposite of a communist stereotype—it feels as though everyone is energetically doing what he wants and half the population are small scale entrepreneurs. The typical "department store" is a large building occupied by (I'm guessing) a couple of hundred tiny stores, with what they sell sorted to some degree by floors of the building.
One interesting question is whether China, at this point, is more or less capitalist than the U.S. So far as Shanghai is concerned, my guess is less in theory but more in practice. I was told that there are regulations on who can cut hair or sell food out of a cart on the street but they are not enforced very energetically and can be dealt with if necessary by a modest bribe to the policeman who is supposed to enforce them.
I am only posting this today, after arriving in Hong Kong, because in Shanghai (and later Xiamen) I was blocked from either reading or writing to my blog (or Facebook, or G+, which left more time free for exploring China), presumably by the Great Firewall. Here too, the restriction is more in theory than in practice. I gathered that most of the Chinese I spoke with had unrestricted access to the internet via a VPN that manages to evade the firewall.
Which provides a subject for my next post.