Chasing Mirages

Tag: shanghai

Shanghai – China’s only real city?

by on Jun.15, 2011, under Posts

I recently read an essay by the head of Beijing Green Cross, Sun Jun (孙君), claiming that Shanghai is the only city in China that has begun developing a true urban culture.  In Sun Jun’s mind, an urban culture requires an effective civil society in which the government and citizens take pride in their city and strive to make it a more pleasant place to live and work.

Admittedly, I didn’t used to be a big fan of Shanghai.  I lived in Shanghai from 2002-2003, and at that time I felt that it was inconvenient, loud, and was exceedingly thin on culture, art and good food.  Most importantly, I didn’t like how I was treated by local Shanghainese.  When I asked for directions, more often than not the locals would refuse to look me in the eye and wordlessly point in an ambiguous direction, or even make hand motions as if shooing away a stray dog.  Service at restaurants and retail stores was abysmal – no smiles, no hello, thank you, good-bye, only gruff mumbling, sharp scolding, and small change thrown in my face.

When I visited Shanghai last year, and again this past month, I found that the place had largely been transformed.

The streets were cleaner and less crowded than before, the subway lines extended to many new places, and incredibly, the people of Shanghai had, in the short span of 8 years, emerged from savagery.  Smiling faces everywhere, people stopping to give very detailed, helpful, and accurate directions; patient customer service, even from the cab company’s lost and found hotline!!

The changes are uncanny.  But I like them.  I never thought I’d say this, but Shanghai has become a pleasant place in my mind, largely thanks to how nice the citizens are.

OK, onto the picture.  This PSA was displayed very prominently in several different locations around the Shanghai Pudong Airport.   I thought it was simple, cute and clever.  The text reads: 省点用 – 懂得节约,才会持久, which means “use sparingly – our long-term survival depends on learning how to conserve”.

The PSA, according to the text on the far right, was made possible by the municipal government’s Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce, and the Shanghai Airport’s JCDecaux subsidiary, and created by the Shanghai Fine Arts Design Company.

It’s nice to see this kind of government – private enterprise cooperation happening in China.  Even better to see that these PSAs are well-designed and well-placed.  To me, it’s clear that the people of Shanghai are starting to develop a healthy civil society, as emphasized by Sun Jun.  I hope this trend spreads in China.

Perhaps Beijing would be a good place to begin.

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Treasure-making garbage can follow-up

by on Apr.15, 2010, under Posts

Thanks again to everybody who submitted comments to my previous post about the mobile bio-chemical processing machine.

I enjoyed reading your comments, and it’s nice to know that I actually have 6 loyal readers, not just 2.

Though all of your answers were worthy of a good kick in the teeth, I can only pick one lucky person whom I will treat to a delicious Peking duck dinner, complete with numerous awkward silences, inappropriate comments, and puzzling facial expressions.

And the winner is….. (continue reading…)

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Treasure chest, garbage can, or….both?

by on Mar.14, 2010, under Posts

This post is an experiment in interactive blogging.  I hope that my loyal readers (yes, all 2 of you) can help me solve a mystery.  A few weeks ago, I was visiting Shanghai when this shiny blue-and-grey beauty caught my eye:

Two words immediately popped out at me – 生化 – which mean ‘bio-chemical’, but more importantly, which are the first two words in the  Chinese title of one of the best movies ever made.  That, combined with the conspicuous lightning bolt symbol, convinced me that this inscrutable piece of equipment should not be ignored.

But I’ve since had little luck finding more information.  That’s why I’m enlisting your help.

Please post a comment with a useful lead (or the best guess you can come up with) that explains what this thing does and how it works.  The author of the most useful and/or most entertaining comment* wins a delicious Beijing roast duck meal at Da Dong.

The catch, of course, is that the winner will have to endure every painful minute of awkward conversation with me during the meal.  The other catch is that you’ll have to come to Beijing to collect your prize. I’ll be really generous and throw in a free night of lodging on my floor.

To give you a headstart and level the playing field for those of you who don’t read Chinese, here are some clues:

  • The first line of text reads “FD-RMCM”.  Sorry about the bad photography.
  • The second line reads “移动式生化处理机”, which means ‘mobile bio-chemical processing machine’
  • The first line on the bottom reads “上海复旦复达科技有限公司”, which means ‘Shanghai Fudan Fu Da Technology Company, Limited’
  • The second line on the bottom reads “上海静安区环建集团”, which means ‘Shanghai Jing An District Environmental Construction Group’
  • The text under the lightning bolt reads “请勿触碰”, which means ‘Please do not touch’
  • The mysterious cabinet was placed at ground level, abutting a multi-unit residential building

Good luck to you all.  May the best commenter win.

*The winner will be picked at my discretion. If all of the comments are worthless, then we will all be losers together.

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