ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A China Diary

Two decades of decentralisation measures initiated by Beijing have provided the provinces of China with a marked degree of autonomy in economic decision-making. Impressions of a visit to Shanghai and Kunming.

The Jin Jiang is not one of the classiest hotels in Shanghai – there are others far bigger, better and more luxuriously opulent, such as the Garden Hotel right opposite the Jin Jiang, which has been built by the Japanese. But it has a historical significance, we are told, as we check into the Jin Jiang on a pleasant evening in the ‘golden autumn of October’. It is at this hotel that the historic Shanghai Communique, signalling the Sino-American rapprochement was signed by Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai in February 1971. Everyone has heard of the Jin Jiang Hotel. There is another interesting feature of this place – it houses a complex which offers every major cuisine in the world. One of the most frequented is the ‘Latino’, where lively and rhythmic music and dance goes on till late in the night. Even as the revelry draws to a close in the Latino, one has to merely step out and through a narrow lane, emerge on to the Huaihai Zhong Street – a busy and extremely modern shopping area with huge departmental stores, nearly all built as joint ventures, mostly with the Japanese, but also with Europeans. There is glitter and gaiety even at midnight and unceasing traffic on this street replete with KFCs and McDonalds. Hawkers on the pavement, peddling CDs and a variety of software and electronics, run only when the appearance of the local police is imminent. One can move along and catch a bus, still plying, to the famous Nanjing Street and the gorgeous bund area – reminiscent of the Marine Drive in Mumbai – blazingly lit up and still impossibly crowded and from where one is offered a view of the skyscraper-studded Shanghai skyline. It is easy to imagine oneself standing in Manhattan. The aura and the ambience at any rate is distinctly American. Shanghai is truly a city that never sleeps.

Shanghai is mainly a city of industry and finance. Towering well above the innumerable other towers of corporate wealth, the new symbol of the city, the Jin Mao Tower is the tallest in China today and the third tallest in the world. The architecture is American, but the construction, as we are pointedly told, is Chinese and it is showcased as a “representative work of the new classic architecture”. The iconic character of this skyscraper, as with skyscrapers generally all over the world, is further reinforced in the context of the new political economy that China appears to have understood and is determined to work out. Standing on the Observation Deck on the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower, with the overwhelming Shanghai skyline spread out below, there is a fleeting but distinct impression that for China today the sky is the limit. The whole world simply lies out there for China’s asking. All the power and opulence of the corporate world is clearly visible – globalisation is not just something to discuss, it appears to be a well entrenched reality.

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