The first time I came to Shanghai we stayed in the Hyatt on the Bund. I can remember asking to switch my room to one overlooking the river. “sir, you currently have the Jewish view” the receptionist said. I bit my tongue.
Well, the Jewish View over Hongkou’s Jewish ghetto is all but wiped off the Shanghai Map. What was a condensed network of tightly woven ramshackle houses and shops around a bad-ass prison is now a few blocks of cement (around an even more bad-ass prison) and one or two plots of land with very real examples of the Chinese nail house phenomenon.
These are the houses of poverty-line owners who refuse to leave when they’re offered two packets of Quavers, a Curly Wurly and an apartment in a high-rise ‘just around the corner’. Everything beyond their four walls gets flattened, propaganda banners of national disgust are flown from their chimney and eventually their electricity is turned off and the deep bucket excavators move in.
They probably know that resistance is Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy futile – and eventually they’ll either have a skyscraper in their front, side and back garden… or their home will get pulled down in the dark. Here’s my favourite shot from Peopledaily.