The Blue Lotus

Original album cover
Original album cover

“The Blue Lotus”, Tintin’s adventures in China, was probably the first thing I learned about Shanghai. The reality of today’s city has little to do with this cartoon anymore, but the book was an inspiration to come to Shanghai for many of us. Although it was a work of fiction, this great depiction of the city’s past still has find echoes in shikumens or villas in the former French Concession.

The weekly black & white cartoons were originally published in children weekly supplement of Brussels’ daily news paper “twentith century” (‘Le Vingtième siècle”). Famous cartoonist Hergé set to send his report to China for his fifth adventure. Rarely leaving Brussels, he started deep researches on this country that he knew little about. His meeting with a young Chinese art student in Brussels created the elements for his new work.

Zhang Chongren
Zhang Chongren

Born in Shanghai, Tchang Tchong-jen (Zhang Chong Ren in modern pinyin) studied painting in Tu Shan Wan art academy, that was founded by Jesuits priest in Xu Jia Hui. He was the nephew of Ma Xiang Bo (known in the west at Father Joseph Ma), a professor at Aurora University (run by the Jesuits brothers), who left it to start Fudan University. Just like many young Chinese, Tchang is highly interested in politics and wishes the end of the foreign concessions in China. He leaves China to Belgium on 23 rd September 1927, the day of the “Mukhden incident”, first step of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and meets Hergé during the early part of his stay.

Tintin_006Tchang’s role in creating the cartoons really develops when Tintin reaches Shanghai. Being himself an artist, he strongly influences the drawing of the cartoon, making it so vivid that Hergé’s drawing sometimes looks like old photos of Shanghai.

Chinese characters used in the action and decors must have been drawn by him, including a number of secret messages, like political slogan demanding foreigners to leave China disguised as writing on walls. Some foreigners in the cartoon are seen as racists, exploiting poor Chinese people. Real pieces of news such as the “Mukhden Incident” are included in the story. Tchang is himself represented in the album as Tintin’s friend Tchang, demonstrating the link created between the two artists. Although this a biased view of a much more complex reality, the album carries the atmosphere of Shanghai at this period really well.

Having being instrumental in the cartoon creation, Tchang goes back to China in 1935, before the actual publication of the cartoon in “Le Petit Vingtième” newspaper. Having lost track because of the war and political events, Hergé will look for his friend for years, before finally meeting again in1981. The Blue Lotus remains one of the most wellknown Tintin album, having been published in several editions in France / Belgium and in China. Publication will be studied in a further post.

Shanghai scarlet

Cover Shanghai Scarlet
Book cover

The Shanghai forgotten modernist writers, Mu ShiYing, Shi Zhecun, Du Heng, Liu Na’ou, Xu Chi have captured my attention since I first came across them in Lynn Pan’s excellent Shanghai Style. I also wrote a specific post about Mu ShiYing “Shanghai Foxtrot” a few years ago. The opportunity to read a novel focused on the author’s life was quite exciting, this is the story told by Shanghai Scarlet.

Author Margaret Blair spent her youth in the Shanghai International Settlement, and now lives in Canada. Like JG Ballard (surely the most famous), Liliane Willens and several others, she wrote a book about her life in Old Shanghai, Gudao, Lone Islet. Shanghai Scarlet, her second book, has received little review as self-published by the author in Canada.

Shanghai Scarlet is inspired by the life of Mu Shying, but it is told by 2 characters, Mu himself and his wife Qiu Peipei. The book is a novel based on historical facts on which the author has added her own vision and filled out the blanks. It is very clear that Margaret Blair has taken the forgotten Shanghai modernist writers to her heart and acquired an impressive knowledge about the topic. The Old Shanghai decor feels really right and the fast changing background of the Chinese politics of the time really shows the hard choices those artists had to make. Mu XiYing’s career started in the early 20’s as a Ningbo student who discovers life in Shanghai, China’s center of modernity. He became part of the group of modernist writers that tried to reform Chinese litterature, in the wave of the changes of the time. With the civil war going on in China in the 1930’s and the Japanese invasion, artists became under pressure to choose a side between Nationalists, Communists and collaboration with the Japanese occupant. Each of them made his own choice, turning long life friends into enemies. Mu XiYing ends up siding with the puppet government of Wang Jingwei, collaborating with the Japanese. Although there are not many information about the topic, the book analyses the thoughts and motivations of the various choices in a very credible manner.

The narrator’s voice is alternatively Mu Shying and Qiu Peipei, keeping the story together and showing the adventurous life of this couple through different angles. Very little is known about Mu Shying’s wife and Margaret has chosen a very strong and (nearly) feminist tone and personality for her. That is probably a little odd in regards to the actual period but matches the story. Despite the heavy research, I noticed a few anachronisms (Margaret, the name Art Deco was coined in the 1960’s so I don’t see how Mu Shying could be thinking about “Art Deco” buildings, for him they were probably simply “modern” I guess).  The writing style itself is a little slow sometimes and the same story to be made shorter at some point, particularly toward the end. However, the book all in all  is quite an entertaining read, as well as a good source of information.

I had never heard about the book nor the author before she contacted on this blog, however the book is also available on amazon. This is not really a mainstream book, but people interested in the topic will enjoy it. The author’s website is www.margaretblair.com

Burmese days

Book Cover, Burmese days, Penguin
Bookcover

George Orwell was mostly known to me thanks to his novels 1984 and Animal farms. As I recently discovered, he also wrote a famous book about his time in Burma in the 1920’s, “Burmese days”. The book has recently been back in the news, thanks to Emma Larkin‘s “Finding George Orwell in Burma” published in 2005. As the most welknown book taking place in Old Burma, “Burmese days” is high on the list of people going to visit today’s Myanmar. Home made copies of the book are on sale in many tourist spots, just like copies of Graham Green’s “The quiet American” are often found in the streets of Saigon.

Set in 1932, the book describes the life of a couple a British colonists in the city of Kyauktada, at the edge of the British Empire. The fictionnal city is copied after the real town of Katha in North Burma, where George Orwell spent 5 years in the imperial police. Lost in the Burmese jungle, they have very little contact with the rest of the world, apart from the “yearly trip to Rangoon”. They also have very little contact with the “natives”, i.e. local Burmese, with the exception of their personal servants (boys and butlers) and private interaction with the local women. The book is pretty much a “huis clos”, it counts only a small number of people and all scenes take place in the same location and in a short period of time. The conditions described in the book are more related to Shanghai in the 19th Century when Shanghai was still considered as an outpost. The city grew fast, but the closed feeling still stayed as foreigners where never that many compared to Chinese and surely always went in the same circles. Smaller outpost in China, just like the one described in “Barney”, were surely even closer to the book description.

Old Bristih house on the river, Burma
The master's house on the river, just like in the book

The book is really reflecting the period view on humanity and colonialism. Although the world is opening to new and different values, like admitting “a native” in the Club, there were hard defenders of conservatism. Just like some expatriates in today’s Asia, they lived a life of pseudo luxury with servants and living conditions they would never dream of at home while constantly complaining against “the natives”. At the same time, they had no interest in understanding people around them, prefering to recreate a mini copy of their idealised homeworld stucked in past. George Orwell spent 5 years in British Burma and his opinion on the topic was very clearly similar to the one of his central character, Flory. He surely also had to hide is views and could not share them with many people there. Similar opinions were common all over Asia. Although the Shanghai. community was way larger than this small city, similar divisions existed between the ones defending their western colonists position and priviledges (including extraterritoriality in China) and the ones with progressist and equilitarian ideas summarised in the universal human right declaration. In Shanghai, a few examples of the progressive camp included Carl Crow who spoke fluent Chinese and became an expert on the topic, as well as JB Powell, publisher of the China Weekly Review. The book is not only an interesting read during a trip to Myanmar, many parts also echoes Old Shanghai life.

Old Shanghai, the paradise of adventurers

Book Cover, Shanghai, the paradise of adventurers
Book Cover

Old Shanghai is often associated with opium, prostitution and young western men seeking adventure. The police forces, army and other administration clearly took many of them to the Shanghai shore, with a new life in a vibrant city. I have written about several books illustrating the high life of Old Shanghai including Ralph Shaw’s Sin City, John Pal’s Shanghai Saga and the ultimate nightlife guide to Old Shanghai, Night Lights, tael Lights. One of the most famous is probably “Shanghai, the paradise of adventurers” by “GE Miller (Pseudonym)”. The book is really difficult to find as it was only printed for a short time. Reference to it can be found on Google books but the actual content is not available. It was translated in Chinese as 上海, 冒險家的樂園 and apparently still printed. It took me quite a bit of research to get my hand on this original 1937 copy.

The book starts with some background information about Shanghai and the concessions. One of the most interesting point is explaining the “shit” system where Shanghailanders once having established some credibility would not have to pay any service on the spot, instead signing a piece of paper, a “chit” with the amount collected on a later basis. Extraterritoriality protected the foreign residents, so some just never paid the bills and the whole city lived on credit. A whole section of the book also details how it was possible to get a fake passport to enjoy extraterritoriality right.

The main content is a series of portraits of shady characters, dubious, mysterious, mischievous and sometimes plain weird. The Spanish consul of the time is definitely a target as the book claims his great need of alcohol and Russian prostitutes, as well as total incompetency as a Société des Nations envoy in Manchouria, trying to assess whether Japanese invasion was justified… from the Japanese ministry of information office. It is very clear that the author used the book for some form of revenge on him. Similarly, the book has a strong anti religion theme, accusing Spanish priest of running gambling establishments as well as being very hard on missionaries. A full section is dedicated to Hungarian master of life falsification Lincoln Trebitsch. Although some parts of the book are difficult to believe if not totally wrong, the reading is very enjoyable. Characters in the book even remind me of real life characters of today’s Shanghai , still sometimes a paradise for questionable characters.

The book was written by GE Miller (pseudonym) who is self described as a diplomat. It did not take a long time for Shanghailanders to unmask the mysterious writer as Mauricio Fresco, the Mexican Honorary Consul. As pointed out by Robert Bickers in Empire Made Me, “The position had long been deeply implicated in the large-scale organized gambling in the city of the 1920″,   Further more “accusing the SMP [Shanghai Municipal Police] in print, and without evidence, of granting ‘full protection’ to British opium smugglers was a representative indiscretion”. “Fresco left hurriedly when his identity was revealed” in 1937, soon after publication of the book, and never returned. However, his book is still one of those that helped creating the myth of Old Shanghai. 

For a more recent book about Old Shanghai underworld, I recommend Paul French’s “City of devils, a Shanghai Noir”.

Les Confins du Yunnan

Les confins du Yunnan
Les confins du Yunnan

“Territoires et populations des confins du Yunnan” is a book I bought in an antique market a couple of years ago. Published in 1931 by French Beijing-based Henri Vetch company, it was actually printed by the Commercial Press in Shanghai. The author Joseph Siguret was also the French Consul from 1926 to 1953 in Beijing and later in Taipei. For this book, he was mostly a translator, as the original was published in Chinese with the support of the Guo Ming Tang a few years before. The original book (云南边地问题研究)was created by Long Yun 龙云, the then governor of the province.

The book is made from travelers notes, going to remote areas of Yunnan. France had strong interest in Yunnan due to the proximity of Tonkin ( part of French Indochina, today North of Vietnam), so having a French translation is not that surprising. As described in posts “Barney, Journals of Henry Virden Bernard” and “Gare du Sud Kunming” taking the train from Hanoi to YunnanFu (today Kunming), was the fastest way to reach Yunan. Since I was traveling to LiJiang, one of the most famous parts of Yunnan, I took this book with me to read it at those scenic places.

Li Jiang Snow Mountain
Li Jiang Snow Mountain

Air travel and mass tourism have changed Lijiang a lot, but the city was already of high importance in the 1930’s. “Li-Kiang” was a sub-prefecture, the commercial center of the whole North-West Yunnan. It was the place were Tibetan products were brought down from then mountains, the place where mountains minority would meet Chinese civilization. The tiger snow mountain is also mentioned, its beauty being as attractive to the author as it is to tourists today.

Yi old lady... with a mobile phone
Yi old lady... with a mobile phone

What really made the trip fantastic was our host and guide Lao Xu. He drove us around for three days, telling the story of his province and taking us to remote places. One of the first foreigner to live in the area was Dr Joseph Rock, an American who studied flora in Yunnan from 1922 til 1949. He is mentioned in the book and Lao Xu took us to place he used to lived. Lao Xu also took us to a Buddhist monastery, meeting the Lamas and admiring the rich colors of the decoration. Beyond the beautiful Lijiang valley, we also went to the Laxi lake in the next valley from LiJiang, that is becoming the next tourist point. What was really out of the ordinary was taking us with him on a trip in the deep mountain. Going up with his friends uncle who knows all the road, we went up to a village where he had never been and where I was the second foreigner ever to come (after somebody from UNESCO a few years ago). The small Yi village hanging near the top of the mountain is so remote that there is no paved road to go up. Being up there felt like a time travel, just like the description of minority people in the 1931 book. Somehow, meeting the old lady in the picture and been invited to her home was really magical.

Today’s Lijiang changed a lot compared with the one described in the book, with millions of tourists and the old town turned into a massive shopping center (with a surprisingly large number of African drums for sale). However, changes has not gone very far from the city yet and remote places like this village still exist. Probably for not so long.

Barney, Journals of Harry Virden Bernard

Singer Sewing Machine
Old Singer Sewing Machine

I have now read quite a number of little known or privately published books written by Old Shanghailanders. Taken away from a past that seemed a lot of fun and was never to be reached again, many of them told their story in their old age. A few of them include Shanghai Saga by John Pal, Stateless in Shanghai by Liliane Willens, Sin City by Ralph Shaw and others that I never had time to write about. Memoirs often a direct account of Old Shanghai, recreating the atmostphere behind the facts, and often contains many informations that can be crossed reference. I recently ran into one that was informative, a good read and leading to finding new facts about Old Shanghai.

Like many of today’s expatriates, Harry Virden Bernard came to Shanghai sent by a company wanting to expend its business i

The Old Shanghai A-Z

old-shanghai-az-001Paul French has long been one of the known writer and researcher on today’s China. Besides his business writing and advisory, he is clearly fascinated by Old Shanghai and the Republican period, having published several books on the topic including Carl Crow’s biography “A tough old China hand”. His blog www.chinarhyming.com has numerous followers, he is also a regular speaker of the Shanghai Literary festival. One of his latest published book is “The Old Shanghai A-Z”.

Today’s Shanghai fast growth creates many direction problems, with roads and motorways being built where only fields existed a few months before. New districts in Xing Pu and Minhang districts as well as Pudong are a constant puzzle for taxi drivers. Places far away or unheard of a few years ago have transformed into concrete jungle and then been infused with life thanks to the arrival of a new shopping center or entertainment area. When I first arrived in Shanghai in 1998, few people had thought about going out in places like GuBei, South Bund or Pudong. The Gubei Bar Street, Coold Docks and Thumb Plaza are now thriving places for entertainment. The rapid development of Old Shanghai was very similar to today’s one. As an example, a battle was fought in 1854 on an empty muddy plain that is now People Square. Similarly the new Shanghai General hospital was built in a “Very far area” on the other side of Suzhou Creek. I really like the American Express guide for “Sightseeing in and around Shanghai”, mentioning SheShan as a 1 to 2 days trip, when it is now a stop on the Shanghai Metro line Number 9.

Just like orientation in today’s Shanghai, this creates a problem in tracing adresses in Old Shanghai. Furthermore, political changes have resulted in several changes of the street names over the year. Names in English and French of the International Settlements have been changed to Chinese names. Sometimes the original Chinese name translated from the foreign one was kept (like Sinan Lu, or GaoAn Lu), or translating the original meaning (like ZhongHua lu and Renmin Lu, the former “Boulevard des deux Républiques). Most often a brand new has been introduced, to follow the political fashion of the time. This is the case of Huai Hai lu (the battle between Communists and Nationalists) or Yannan lu (the hideout of Mao Ze Dong in the 1930’s). In any case, finding the current location of an old Shanghai address is often not easy, this is where Paul French new book is just what was needed.

French Concession logo
French Concession logo

Although lists of Old Shanghai streets existed, I had never seen a complete one before. Paul French researched every single streets of the International Settlement, the extra territorial road and the French Concession. Not only did he list them along with the matching current name, but most importantly he wrote an article about every one of them. As in previous books from French, this is the result of an extremely thorough research, that has already become an anchor for any Old Shanghai researcher. This is surely not one to reads from beginning to the end, but an extraordinary resource for research. To add to it, French also used part of his own collection of Old documents and photographs to illustrate the book. The only point I have found missing was a picture of the French Concession logo that would go next to the flag of the International Settlement. It seems that French forgot about the French. In any case, Shanghai A-Z makes a great Christmas gift for anybody interested in Old Shanghai.

Robert Nield, The China Coast

Book Cover
Book Cover

With the summer coming and a little less traveling, I finally have to actually read the books I picked up during the Shanghai Literary Festival in last March. One of the most interesting event was the literary lunch with Robert Nield. As with all Old Shanghai related event, it attracted the usual crowd of Shanghai history enthusiasts and authors. I always enjoy is these events as they take me away from business questions and activities to get on a time travel for a few hours. The presentation was excellent as well as lunch and I was looking forward to read the actual book.

Robert Nield’s approach is quite similar to mine. He is not a cleric or a professional historian but a retired businessman who got interested in the topic of Asia colonial history. Readers are assumed to know little about the topic and that makes the book a very easy read. At the same time, the author has done in-depth research that make it really credible from an historical point of view. The aim of the author is to visit every single treaty ports in China, but the current book focuses on history of the trade on the China Coast before creation of the treaty ports, as well as Hong Kong and the 5 original ports (Canton, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai).

The first part of the book is focused on the pre-treaty port period, which has been much less studied than later treaty ports time, making the book even more interesting. Since Robert Nield is a business man, his point of view is oriented toward an economic view of history that is truly relevant to this case. The same period was studied from a different angle in Foreign Mud by Maurice Collis. However, The China Coast starts from a much earlier period describing the unsuccessful attempts from Portuguese, Spaniards, Dutch and British to be recognised as trading partner by China. Products such as tea, silk and porcelain (also called China!) were in the highest demand in Europe. Trade had been going on between Europe and China for centuries and traders were in the center of the political process that led to the Opium Wars and the opening of Treaty ports.  Through is position in Hong Kong, Robert Nield also had access to archives of the early trading companies and banks that were also part of the colonial process, including HSBC, Jardine & Matheson and Butterfield & Swire giving us information and illustration that was previously very difficult to find.

The second part of the book is focused on the history of the treaty port, that received each a chapter of equal length. This leaves very little space for well documented places such as Shanghai and Hong Kong, but the challenge was to find enough information about the other ports, in particular Foochow (today Fuzhou) and Ningbo. A lot of time and effort has been spent to find information about these smaller ports that never really reached a large size. Fuzhou was a place for shipping tea, but did not really succeed in it for a long time. Ningbo specialized in religious evangelists as trade was also not the best due to the competition of Shanghai and better places like Hangzhou. One of the most interesting part of the book is surely about Xiamen and Kulangsoo (Gu Lan Yu island today). Surprisingly, Kulangsoo international settlement and Xiamen British Concession were too separate entities. Trade in Xiamen was never really great due to the impoverished population of the hinterland but the scenery and location are some of the best in China and foreigners there enjoyed a great life. Ultimately, the port specialised in shipping people as Chinese coolies became in high demand after the ban of slavery in Africa, paving the way for the Chinese diaspora in Malaysia, Australia and many other locations.

The Concubine of Shanghai

concubine1We  continue travelling through Old Shanghai based contemporary literature with one of the airport bookstores favorite, Hong Ying, The Concubine of Shanghai. To be honest, Hong Ying “K: The Art of Love” is probably more famous, but the title of this one was the attraction point. Although the book have been acclaimed and makes an excellent read, I have mixed feelings about it.

The original Chinese title was “上海王”, translating as “Shanghai Lord” that is probably more accurate, though surely less alluring from a marketing point of view. The main character is Cassia, a sixteen years old girl from Pudong sold to Madame Emerald, the owner of a Puxi high-class brothel located in the Chinese city, on the hedge of the French Concession. Too tall, with too big feet and curves for the fashion of the time, the girl is destined to remain a servant, when others become popular sing song girls. Her fate changes when she become the favorite girl of the leader of one of the main Shanghai secret societies. After his tragic death, Cassia falls back into poverty. She only comes back to Shanghai a few years later, leading a local opera band and rise to stardom in Shanghai. She is still involved with the underworld and manage through these connections to be one of its informal leaders.

The story of Cassia is the one of a lady struggling through life to rise to the top through her intelligence, hard work and persistence. Asia’s women are too often seen as submissive, but Cassia is a true Shanghai lady impersonating the legendary spirit and reputation of the city’s women. Although Cassia’s life in set in the 1930’s, her story and attitude reminds me of several women friend who have managed to reach  excellent business positions through hard work business sense. The book is not only about business and social achievement, but also about love and sexuality. Although modest by western standard, erotic scenes are numerous in the book and Cassia’s enjoyment of sex is very clear. In a country where sex was a taboo for many centuries, it must have been quite shocking for many readers. The book is really good literature, unfortunately research on real Shanghai history is seriously lacking.

Border Chinese City with French Concession
Border Chinese City with French Concession

First of all, the main location of book first part is a brothel located on the border line between the Chinese city and the French Concession. There is even a scene where characters entering from the Chinese city are able to escape through the back door to the French concession. Unfortunately, at that time the real Shanghai Chinese city was surrounded by the City Wall and moated (see picture left). This was all replaced later by a large Boulevard (today Ren Min lu and Zhong Hua lu). In a similar way, a large part takes place in a hotel located next to the Garden Bridge (or WaiBaiDu Chao) that could be the Astor House hotel. The name of the hotel is surely not the right one, and at the contrary to the book state this hotel was surely not owned or run by Chinese at that time.
Some of the events in the book are also clearly picked from real people life. For example, Cassia’s poverty is caused by a parent’s death and when she has become a star she cause back to her Pudong’s origin, creating a monument for her long deceased parents and giving out charity to build a children’s school. This is strongly inspired by part of Du Yue Sheng’s life, who actually became the real Lord of Shanghai’s underworld. In another chapter, 1926 is described as the 5th year of the Republic… when it was clearly the 15th (this may be a translation mistake).

Finally, there is very little about real Old Shanghai feeling in the book. Western Old Shanghai novels like “The Master of Rain” or “Last seen in Shanghai” tend to focus on historical details while missing filling and real people’s life. At the contrary “The Concubine of Shanghai” is high on feelings and emotion, but historical research  seems to have been done in 10 minutes, reading a two page leaflet for a local tour company. It is really a pity that attention to actual details (including in the translation) has been lacking so much, as it destroys most of its credit as a historical novel.

Shanghai Aerotropolis

Book Cover
Book Cover

It has been a few weeks since I wrote the last Shanghailander.net post, a delay very much caused by the number of Air Miles I flew in the last weeks. Taking me away from my favorite city and its history, I found myself confronted with its future. This post about New Shanghai if not future Shanghai.

“Aerotropolis, the way we’ll live next” is a book I picked in Bangkok airport a few weeks ago and reading it has been fascinating since. My interest in it surely resonates with my background in transport studies (many years ago now) as well as my recent peak in airmiles flown. The basic theory of John D. Kasarda (the wisdom behind the book) is that cities are drawn around airports because of the need of speed and connectivity. Greg Lindsay (who actually wrote the book) uses many examples of such cities that have been built (mostly in the USA) or are being built (mostly in Asia) around airports.

The aerotropolis seems to be the answer to every problem from global climate change (even demonstrating that flying food around the World is more eco-friendly than growing it locally), to over population (as everybody will be so happy to live in these new mecca of speed and efficiency). Similarly, air transport will fuel the economy of the instant age, as internet purchase rapidly inflate the need for small parcels delivered worldwide as fast as possible. In a same way, facebook and social network will push people to connect face-to-face, using airplanes to bring the gap between continents. The pair finds direct application of their theory in Asia, for example in Singapore that is labelled as the typical aerotropolis. They also find in Bangkok success for passenger traffic, i.e. tourists. At the same time, its failure to create the surrounding aerotropolis environment is also an example of how not to create an aerotropolis from Kasarda’s point of view.

The Road to Shanghai Aerotropolis
The Road to Shanghai Aerotropolis

The nearest example to us is surely the new Hong Qiao area. Creating the Hong Qiao 2 terminal, combined with highspeed railway links and the land clearing miles around was definitely inspired by Kasarda’s theories. Just seeing the change in what used to be Puxi’s back waters transformed into the new hot development area is fascinating. Logistics companies, manufacturing and office complexes are all moving Westwards, attracted by this new magnet of competitiveness. Hotels, serviced apartments and residential areas are sure to follow, as all these people will need accommodation short or long term. In that sense, the aerotropolis is just working the way Kasarda predicted it. People are attracted by the airport and its economic opportunities… but whether it is really where people want to live is a different story. This probably the limit to the theory (see The Guardian review of the same book) as living in the aerotropolis seems more like living in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than in new found paradise.

This is all good for Old Shanghai anyway. As the pressure to create new offices and residential real estate moves form the city center to the peripheral areas, it is likely that the destruction of our beloved city will slow down. Once money made, the winners of this new game will surely move to nicer areas like the Bund or the old French Concession. By contributing to their gentrification, they will hopefully want to protect their new found little paradise and help keeping part of Old Shanghai intact.