The Future of China

I've been in Shanghai for about 24 hours now, and it's a real mix of opposites. I won't say it's an equilibrium, because I find it's sort of a crazy melange of contradictory properties in all kinds of weird ways.

It's old/traditional and it's new/modern. It's beautifully spacious (Pudong) and it's sardine-crowded (everywhere old). The people are rich (like Mercedes and Shangri-La Hotels), and poor (hanging clothes out to dry in the middle of the alley). It's expensive (high-end restaurants) and it's cheap (those same restaurants with take-out option for the same food).

But one thing doesn't have an opposite: the people are rude. Even in the high-end restaurants and places where you'd expect service, they are. I mean, they give you service alright, but not really with a smile, and not really with the courtesy that we've come to take for granted in Europe, North America, Japan, and even Taiwan.

Shanghai has a long way to go in learning how to grow up, and how to control that growth. But that's just my first impression so far.

3 comments:

Van said...

We have a Shanghai office and as one of our office mates said, in Shanghai the hardware is all new but the software is still in need of an upgrade.

Rose said...

Benben, despite the lavish hotels, fancy malls and business centers that you see, Shanghai (or China in general) is still a POOR country that's lived the last 35 years in a communist/dictatorship society. Unlike North American, people are still striving to meet their basic needs. I wouldn't care about manners and courtesy either if I am dirt poor and need to feed my family. You are comparing 1st world countries to a developing country, ofcourse the service wouldn't match up!

Ben said...

Van, that's a common way of describing it -- I've heard that from tons of people as well.

Rose, I totally agree with you that most of China is still very poor. But the rude people I've come in contact with are not those ones; they're dressed up decent, and at least could afford to travel for leisure (because I've encountered even more at the airport). They have (some) money.