Taking the line 2 Metro from Zhongshan Park, I decided to get off at Jing’an Temple and walk down Nanjing Xi Lu with the intention of visiting one of the ‘city shopping centres’ that dot Shanghai. Now, as far as food and drink are concerned, you can get more or less everything in China and what you you cannot get you can more or less get at one of Shanghai’s ‘city shopping centries’. Anyway, there was me walking down Nanjing Xi Lu and into the Portman Ritz Carlton complex and the ‘city shopping centre’ there. None of this is, of course, very remarkable and even the scene I am about to describe could, albeit as a variation to the theme, be in London, Paris, New York or Munich.
The wealth in the Portman Ritz Carlton shopping centre is ostentious and reminiscent of Maximillian Strasse in Munich and for Nanjing Xi Lu itself we could read, Theatiner Strasse. Anyway, with my little bag of goodies purchased I walked back onto the main road and a few metres further down, there was this little lady, face burned black by the sun, bent double, posture irreparably damaged, balancing two massive baskets of cherries on a bamboo pole. It is scenes like this that we encounter all over China and while, at times, the exclusion is not always obvious in places like Shanghai it is also all prevading there and in Suzhou it becomes even more blatant; the masses of people in the SIP who clean our offices and flats, who empty the bins, who cook in the restuarants, who stand in front of our compounds, they are less hidden than they are in Shanghai. In China the rich are getting richer and they like to flaunt their wealth but there are over a billion drones out there who don’t have access to even those basics that the working class in my Glasgow had in the 60s; education, health, an opportunity for some sort of social mobility. It is, perhaps, appropriate to take a quote fromm chapter ten of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer— except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.” Something is rotten and it is rotten not only in the Kingdom of Denmark.