Shanghai, the International City (Until 10:59pm)

In the Hutong
Watching the workers fit my old desk partitions into a Daihatsu microvan
0851 hrs

The Village Grouch (Hutong resident, author, raconteur, and Scuba pooh-bah) was in a foul mood when we spoke this morning. Seems The Grouch was on the 8:00 PM rocket from Beijing to Hongqiao airport in Shanghai, a miserable commute under most circumstances, but miraculously on-time last night.

Grouch lands on time at 10:05 PM, does that long slog from the gate to the street, gets to the taxi queue at 10:30 PM, and discovers that due to a “shift change,” there are no taxis to be had.

Now, let’s consider this for a moment. A major airport. China’s largest city. Before midnight. And NO taxis. Not because so many people are riding cabs, not because of awful weather. A shift change.

And Shanghai is an “International City?” Right.

Fly into JFK any time of the day or night, and there are plenty of cabs. Same for Heathrow, Narita, Chep Lap Kok, and Changi.

I know it sounds like picking nits, but it is indicative of the fact that China Hype has reached such a level that many of us wouldn’t even question the validity of Shanghai’s claim to be an International City a la New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore. But a municipality where the freeways are sinking, getting a business license takes MONTHS, and you have to time your arrivals for the taxi drivers is NOT an international city. It’s a cow-town with skyscrapers.

The skyline may be beautiful, and you may even be able to buy a decent meal on The Bund and buy a Starbucks. But Shanghai has a ways to go before it catches up with its own self-image.

And it’s an example of how many of us – myself included – need to fine-tune our B.S. detectors.