Sunday, February 19, 2012

Should Shanghai Have Borders?

Today, as I saw this scene of people in Zhuhai looking across the harbor (Qianshan Waterway) at Macau:

view of Macau from across the harbor in Zhuhai

I recalled a scene from last summer in Shanghai of people looking across the river at Pudong district's modern skyline:

view of Shanghai's Pudong district from the other side of the river

Despite the similarities in the two scenes, including a bit of smog, while mainland Chinese need a permit to enter Macau, no permit is required for them to enter Shanghai's Pudong district -- one of China's most developed areas. Regarding Shanghai, a Chinese reader from there responded to my post about Macau's border with mainland China with these comments [English slightly edited for clarity]:
I can understand why Macau and Hong Kong have these rules.

I don't want my own culture to be changed, even my own city [Shanghai] will be captured. Lots of people are too aggressive here. So many people come here but they actually don't like it. They condemn our city, our language, our rules, and they want to change things here. They hate Shanghainese.
In response to the title of this post, no, she does not feel that Shanghai should have borders separating it from the rest of China. And though she will need a permit to do so, she hopes to visit both Hong Kong and Macau someday.

The reader's comments provide much fodder for discussion. For now, I share them simply to highlight a mainland Chinese perspective on the borders that may not have been expected without a deeper understanding of China. I am sure there are a variety of other perspectives that could be found in China and Shanghai as well. In the post about Macau's border I wrote [emphasis added]:
Despite growing up in a cultural environment very different from most Chinese, I suspect I would be asking questions very similar to those that some people in China are now asking.
The "some" is of course very key in terms of appreciating the variety of views held by China's people. Additionally, there can be a diverse set of factors guiding these views. Just the comments above from a single person touch on several very important issues for China such as the rapid pace of change, the variety of cultures, and the divisions between certain groups of people. Even an issue that could seem so straightforward from the outside, the views of mainland Chinese on borders restricting their own travel within China, is full of complexities. Once again, there are many layers.

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