Often when moving around Shanghai, I have visions similar to the seminal film “Blade Runner” – those twisting highways, ever presence of digital screens, the whiz of electronic bikes that somehow seems to harken a futurist commuter solution.
But then this begs a fairly fundamental question – How modern is Shanghai? My simple elevator-pitch on this, when required is “Shanghai is a window to where China is going in the future”.
Well … coming out of the elevator, I would let my glasses fall some way down my nose, and make the super important point that … “Shanghai is a city that oscillates between the traditional and the post-modern.”
Big Call, but what I mean is that development has been truncated to such an extent, that modernism was entirely skipped in the process, partly “ridiculous economic growth”, partly “political uncertainty”.
Tradition can be understood as the key organizing principle of Shanghai-nese life, but the world encountered is post-modern – where multiple spaces, realities, times, subjectivities occur simultaneously, rather than to the hierarchy or predictive rhythm of modernity.
So when asked “How modern are the Shanghai-nese?” – the answer is simply, “They skipped modernity, and are now pushing the limits of liveable post-modernity”.