The mystery is how China ever became communist. Even the monks at the Jade Buddha temple are turning a pretty penny. The juxtaposition of statues of the Buddha and souvenir stalls is alarming.
On Huaihai Lu, everyone is buying or selling. Mostly watches and bags. Every five paces a friendly voice cries Helloooooo, you want watch? Bag? DVD? My granny? I smile and say no. One of the few phrases I have learned in putonghua is wo bu yao. I don’t want it. The only guy who doesn’t want to sell me anything is the sweet potato baker. He is on the run from the street inspectors. Huaihai Lu is a flash shopping street in the middle of the French Concession. It’s a beautiful district of villas and 1930s tenement blocks, lining shady boulevards. Although the area was never very French, it has a laidback midi feel. It looks rich. Many of the shops are chic boutiques. To support them, someone must have money. Shanghai is more affluent than I had expected. In India, there was a huge gulf between the middle class and the poor majority. Here it seems that rampant capitalism is pulling everyone along. No wonder there are so many people laughing and smiling on the streets. It must be a great time to live here, as the shackles of Maoist austerity are pushed aside.