Shanghai Breezes

On my first visit to Shanghai this week—to give a talk at a business conference—I’m getting a close-hand snapshot of the “China Miracle.” Shanghai invites comparisons to New York City, though the Chinese metropolis has twice the population, more brazen pedestrians and bicyclists, friendlier hotels, nastier panhandlers, and the most dazzling nighttime display of city lights I’ve ever witnessed. (It reminds me of my first bug-eyed visit to Times Square as a kid.)

From reading the Shanghai Daily, I can see that the government wants to assure us that accountability (once notably missing) is now the order of the day. The country’s environmental chief was sacked due to a toxic spill that has polluted the water supply in Northeastern China—and soon in Russia. (The government has vowed to “seriously punish those responsible.”) A civil servant was sentenced to death for embezzling funds in a public works project. (I wish officials involved in the “Big Dig” project in my hometown of Boston would read this.) And the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration is even cracking down on misleading drug ads.

Meanwhile the farmers have their own issues … The cotton-pickers are complaining about unfair U.S. trading practices. While they work up to 11 hours a day manually seeding and harvesting, their U.S. counterparts using mechanized mass planting are subsidized by Uncle Sam. I suppose what constitutes “unfair trade” depends on which side of the lake you live on.

Overall, capitalism seems to be alive and kicking in the “People’s Republic.” Anyone surprised?

John OLeary posted this on December 6, 2005, in News.
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