In one of the richest cities in the world, as much as 25% of the population lives in crumbling concrete rooms with a single electrical outlet, bathrooms that are shared with an entire lane of apartments, and zero protection from the elements.
Shanghai is attempting to put all these people into hastily-constructed high-rise apartments. Indeed, the corrupt housing boom has built enough apartments in this city to house 40 million. While the amenities in these new places may technically be better, this forced movement into tall buildings is a difficult transition- as most of these people sell their wares right outside their front door (assuming they have a door). They put chairs in the alleyways and chat with the hundreds of people that pass through. When placed into high-rise apartments, this simple sense of community is taken away and, despite still being surrounded by people on all sides, the privacy built into these structures causes them to often feel isolated and the lack of a storefront forces them to often seek employment with a large factory on the edges of town- forcing them from large and impersonal apartment to large and impersonal place of work. The government’s supposed desire to bring these people up is often having the effect of bringing them down.
Scenes from a fancy hotel-top bar in the South Bund on Chinese Valentine’s Day.