Nathan Myhrvold: Is Shanghai Turning Pro or Just Building High?

Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer of Microsoft, writes a guest post for the New York Times’ Freakonomics blog about his first trip to China:

My first stop in China was Shanghai, and I arrived directly from New Delhi; the contrast couldn’t have been greater. Both China and India are developing countries. You can’t escape that in New Delhi; a five-minute drive on any road will remind you where you are, for example, when water buffalo walk by. Shanghai, on the other hand, looks like a 1950’s artist’s rendition of the city of the future. There are millions of people living in China on less than $2 a day, but they aren’t much in evidence in greater Shanghai.

The infrastructure is all new, from the airport to the expressway leading into the city (or you can take an ultra-high-speed maglev train and be there in 12 minutes). The downtown section of Shanghai is called Pudong, and it is full of gleaming new skyscrapers. The other side of the river has the Bund, the center of Shanghai’s 19th-century economic boom. It too is replete with interesting architecture, albeit smaller and older. Amusingly, none of this architecture is Chinese. The closest thing I found to ancient Chinese culture was a fast food-chain called Kung Fu. Maybe that is the point of the place; Shanghai has long prospered by embracing and adopting the foreign.


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