07/09/07 - chinese food

In today's excerpt - Chinese food, and other new things in current-day Shanghai:

"Not long ago, my wife and I moved to Shanghai for an indefinite stay. ... The daily surprise is how inexpensive, rather than expensive, the basics of life can be. Starbucks coffee shops are widespread and wildly popular in big cities, even though the prices are equivalent to their U.S. levels. But for the same 24 yuan, or just over $3, that a young Shanghai office worker pays for a latte, a construction worker could feed himself for a day or two from the noodle shop likely to be found around the corner from Starbucks. Pizza Hut is also very popular, and is in the 'fine dining' category. My wife and I walked into one on a Wednesday evening, and were turned away because we hadn't made reservations. Taco Bell Grande is similarly popular and prestigious; the waiters wear enormous joke-like sombreros that would probably lead to lawsuits from the National Council of La Raza if worn in stateside Taco Bells. Kentucky Fried Chicken is less fancy, but is a runaway success in China as it is in most of Asia. ...

"The signs of China's rise are of course apparent everywhere. ... From a room in the futuristic Tomorrow Square (!) building where we have been staying, I can look across People's Square to see three huge public video screens, which run commercials and music video seemingly nonstop. The largest screen, nearly two miles away, is the entire side of the thirty-seven-story Aurora building in Pudong, Shanghai's new financial district. In the daytime, the sides of the building are a shiny gold reflective color. At night, they show commercials to much of the town. 'People under thirty can't remember anything but a boom,' a European banker who has come to Shanghai to expand a credit-card business told me. 'It's been fifteen years of double-digit annual expansion. No one anywhere has seen anything like that before.' ...

"Every run-down neighborhood has a bakery selling very good croissants and baguettes (though it is very hard to find cheese in China, which after all has no dairy-food tradition, and where a standard knock against Westerners is that they 'smell like butter.' "


James Fallows


'Postcards From Tomorrow Square'


The Atlantic


December 2006


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