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Baozi-meets-sushi like baozi-meets-hotdog

发布时间:2009-04-16

IT has long been commonplace both within and beyond Shanghai to talk about the city as a locale that connects Europe and America to China.

This idea took hold initially during the treaty-port period, when nicknames for the city as a whole (most famously "Paris of the Orient") were used to portray the metropolis as one that had ties to both the West and the East. This idea was also underscored by comparably structured shorthand phrases for specific districts or streets (when the Bund was called China#QuotationMarks#s "Wall Street," Nanjing Road likened to New York#QuotationMarks#s 5th Avenue, and so on).

It is easy to trace the origin of a view of Shanghai as an East-meets-West setting, since, as we have seen, in the middle of the 1800s first Britain and then the United States and France established special enclaves by the Huangpu River.

Then, later in the 19th century and early in the 20th century, it became a stop on the itineraries of famous Western tourists (from General Ulysses S. Grant to Charlie Chaplin) and a port via which Western products (from streetlights to cars, Hollywood movies to bottles of Coke, cigarettes to saxophones) made their way into China.

Throughout the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s Shanghai played a dual role as at least a main window (and often the main window) onto the West for many Chinese, and a main window (and again often the main window) onto China for many Westerners.

But even in the treaty-port era, it could be misleading to think of Shanghai#QuotationMarks#s cosmopolitanism as simply an East-meets-West phenomenon.

The city may have been a "Paris of the Orient," but it was not only a place to which European and American products, ideas, and people came and made their marks in a Chinese setting.

There were always non-Western and non-Chinese actors playing key roles in the story of Shanghai#QuotationMarks#s globalization.

If Shanghai#QuotationMarks#s initial globalization deserves to be treated as much more than just a tale of East-meets-West, the same holds true in spades for the city#QuotationMarks#s re-globalization.

The mixture of actors and influences is not quite the same, but it is once again very much an East-meets-East as well as an East-meets-West story.

This is true even of some developments that seem at first to be all about the revived importance of flows to the city from America and Europe.

Consider, for example, the arrival of the first Starbucks outlets in 2000.

Yes, this company is based in Seattle (US state of Washington) and serves drinks, such as espresso and cappuccino that are associated with Italy and France.

But when the Shanghai outlets opened, they were managed by Presidential Coffee, a company based in Taiwan.

At least several hundred thousand people from Taiwan currently reside and work in Shanghai, with many more living between Shanghai and Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, in the corridor that is the heart of the Chinese computer industry, its answer to Silicone Valley.

Many other East-meets-East sides to Shanghai#QuotationMarks#s re-globalization could be cited, which is not surprising given that Japan and South Korea are now China#QuotationMarks#s leading trade partners.

(The author is a professor of history at University of California at Irvine. The article is an excerpt from his speech at Fudan University on March 12. The views are his own.)

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