A continuation of the theme from the last few days, and the train from Nanjing to Shanghai rolls into Changzhou. Outside the sky tells its own sick narrative uninterrupted by what might be countryside. Arriving at Wuxi and there was that blog post some eight years ago; “Wuxi with some six millions is not Wolverhampton”, if I remember correctly, and, while pollution in China remains beyond the scale in both terms of intensity and extent, in other ways too it isn’t difficult to discern that very little, if anything at all, has changed for the better.
A couple of ex-colleagues from my days here have put forward the thesis that the Cultural Revolution is partly responsible for the destruction of a more civil society and the creation of a population of egoists. Of course, there is that other “concentric circles” model, where they place themselves and their families at the very centre, but will still show friends and acquaintances varying degrees of intimacy, friendship and even altruism. In most cases that model does exist, and it is outside the circles the “I” is only concerned with “me, me” and, with the advent of the smart phones, the ignorance is easier to see.
Ostentatious wealth in Shanghai and even in a nothing special part of the city it would appear that the half decent, or somewhat better and bigger, apartments are worth about 10 million RMB and if what a building that looks like a solid council property doesn’t give you an indication of the real purchasing power of the people who live in them you should take the tube for a couple of stops to the Shanxi Nan Lu area and there they are the Gucci, Burberry buying, buying, buying, driving Porsche crowd. Shanghai follows the London model and it is strangely reminiscent of “Blighty” in the early 80s, when Maggie handed them all little council houses, which are now worth a fortune, while simultaneously beginning the destruction of the UK’s very own “tiefánwan” (iron rice bowl).
Nevertheless, what about the rest of us and as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, with the “Chinese road to Socialism metamorphosing into rentier capitalism, and the sun straining itself to get a peek in, there is really is everything to suggest that China is not going to buck the trend and contradict the illogical nonsense that infinite growth on a planet with finite resources requires. It is a dystopian future for all of us at best and very possibly the end of mankind.