In Praise of Shanghai

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

David Friedman speaks out in praise of Shanghai:

There is street food everywhere, people are friendly, the architects who built the skyscrapers were crazy enough to put a model of half a planet on top of one and of a space station on another.

The evening before I left I went for a walk in the park near my hotel. There was music playing, I suspect from a boom box, and couples, many of them middle aged, dancing to it, not very well. In the same park the next morning there were people doing tai chi exercises, others doing slow motion dance moves, in groups, to music. The feel of the place is almost the precise opposite of a communist stereotype—it feels as though everyone is energetically doing what he wants and half the population are small scale entrepreneurs. The typical “department store” is a large building occupied by (I’m guessing) a couple of hundred tiny stores, with what they sell sorted to some degree by floors of the building.

One interesting question is whether China, at this point, is more or less capitalist than the U.S. So far as Shanghai is concerned, my guess is less in theory but more in practice. I was told that there are regulations on who can cut hair or sell food out of a cart on the street but they are not enforced very energetically and can be dealt with if necessary by a modest bribe to the policeman who is supposed to enforce them.


  1. Toddy Cat says:

    I’ve heard similar stories from people who have been there. China has some huge structural problems though, and rumor has it that there are still a few Communists in the Communist Party of China. Time will tell, but of course old-timers will tell you that Shanghai always was a magical place…

Leave a Reply