Shanghai: Cao Yang neighourhood

Mrs Ding, a community leader, invited our group to visit Cao Yang neighourhood for a day last week. This suburb is about 20km NW of  downtown Shanghai and was established in the early 1950s. There are about 95 000 residents and they are served by a dozen primary and high schools, as well as a technical institute, hospital and a subway station.

We spent some time in the community centre which serves the neighbourhood chatting with locals and saw dance and ballet lessons, retired people discoing early in the day and the wide-range of community services on offer, including a family planning clinic. The one child policy, established in 1979, is being relaxed in Shanghai and other provinces. A couple who have no brothers and sisters and are married are encouraged to have two children nowadays.

Later we explored the fresh produce market that services the community. It is the largest I have ever seen and I’m told, one of the biggest in Shanghai. The produce looked superb but one had to watch out for motorbikes that zipped along the walkways at alarming speed. Here’s a photo of a local with superb dental work.

We had lunch as a Guest of Madam Yi, a retired factory worker, who lives with her husband and daughter, a student studying to become a kindergarten teacher. We had a glorious lunch of local dishes. The quail eggs were my favourite.

All of the Shanghai TEV participants felt the strong sense of inclusion evident in this neighbourhood and enjoyed the experience of getting away from tourist places and into a local community.

I personally found Shanghai a paradox. The evidence of communist China juxtaposed with the free market ideas of the West is visually and practically everywhere. One wonders if the sense of community, so strong in China for obvious historical reasons, will suffer, as it has here, with the rise of the cult of ‘the individual as consumer’.

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