Imagine you’re taking a walk down Nanjing road in Shanghai. Start at People’s square. This expansive parade ground used to be a horse racing track until the communist party outlawed racing and gambling in 1949 and flattened it for the glory of the new China. Now it’s filled with the Mao-jacket clad, elderly survivors of the cultural revolution, who’ve finally reclaimed the space for leisure. They cheerfully sit playing chess and dancing to 1950s classics scratchily playing from an old portable cassette player, impervious to people walking past.
Dodge the gridlock of new cars as you’re crossing the recently constructed six-lane Tibet Rd onto Nanjing road proper. Quite suddenly, thousands of black haired people bustle around you humming like bees in this hive of neon stimulation. Families gaze in wonder at a blue illuminated aquarium window display in a department store. A giant screen blares advertisements 20 metres above your head. Young people in brightly coloured outfits sit in Starbucks, laughing over iced coffee and comparing bargains.