Before I left for China, I watched a Discovery Channel documentary (China Rises: Behind the Great Wall) telling the story of how the Chinese government was tearing down old homes in downtowns to build skyscrapers. The show was a few years old, so I never thought I’d witness it in person. I knew that I would see a mix of old and new in Shanghai, but nothing like this.
We exited the subway to walk to COOL DOCKS, a semi-trendy restaurant district just off the Bund. We wandered through a neighborhood of old Shanghai, where a woman served dinner in a makeshift restuarant of 3 tables, while she cooked in an open-air wok. Shanghai streetlife of merchants and bicyclists continued right in front of buildings like this, which were clearly being torn down. A few apartments survived, but it was clear that they, too, were on borrowed time. In two years, the foreground will look like the background. The old Chinese will be moved to some other part of the city, as Shanghai will continue to clean the streets of annoying things like two-story apartments and long-term residents.