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Stella Dong

Stella is the author of Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City. We spoke to Stella about The DNA of Shanghai.

Image Credit: Wix.

Caitlin Morrissey

So, Stella, in your mind, what is the DNA of Shanghai?

Stella Dong

Okay, the DNA of Shanghai is change, openness to change, the ability to adapt and not just to adapt but to adapt with precision and speed. So, for instance, you know, Shanghai-- okay, it is-- when the Shanghainese set out-- number one, unlike most of China, this is more true of China in the first half of the 20th century, the Shanghainese were outward-facing. You know, the city sits right at the easternmost part of the country where it bulges furthest towards the rest of the world, so Shanghainese were never hostile to foreigners, unlike the Cantonese.

And when the Westerners came to Shanghai with their inventions, their techniques, their ships, their trade, their techniques and ideas, Shanghainese were open. They were not resistant like the rest of China. And China, right after the Opium War, was, of course, known for its resistance and its conservatism, its hostility towards anything from the outside world. So Shanghainese, they took everything the West had to offer.

When people think of Shanghai, the image that first comes to them is of that Bund, of these European-style buildings looming-- just the huge buildings all along the Huangpu waterfront, the Western ships. Shanghainese, they built those buildings from Western plans. That whole city, Shanghai, before 1949, all of it-- all of the western part was built with Westerners directing the Chinese. And the Shanghainese, they avidly embraced the style, the techniques, so forth. Anyway, so DNA would be openness and ability to change and rapidity of change.

But two other things: energy and vitality. Shanghai goes-- people want to do things in a big way and quickly. They aim to impress. There's a certain kind of showmanship about Shanghai. They want everything to be bigger and better, more flamboyant. And one could say, to a certain extent, China in the 21st century has become this kind of macrocosm of Shanghai. You know, people say, China has taken all these qualities that were once singular to Shanghai as part of its 21st-century identity. Now, China is full of mini-Shanghai’s. There are all of these new metropolises with the shiny glass and steel towers. They seek to imitate the dynamism of Shanghai. All these new Chinese cities, they all want to be like Shanghai. okay, that's what I want to add about the DNA of Shanghai.

Greg Clark

Can we talk about why it is that Shanghai originally attracted population which I understand to be something to do with the confluence of the Yangtze River and the Pacific Ocean? Do you perceive those original geographies to be important?

Stella Dong

Absolutely. Central. Essential. Without its geographical location, Shanghai would still be a middling kind of market town. Okay, so location: Shanghai, as I mentioned earlier, sits right on the point of the eastern coast along the East China Sea that bulges furthest to the east. But it's not just that. And, critical, it's at the mouth of the Yangtze River. The Yangtze River is China's lungs. In those days, in the maritime days, the Yangtze River brought everything into China. And it runs through 3,000, 4,000 miles, almost-- like, through the heartland of China, not to Tibet, but it runs through a substantial part of China. So it's a distribution channel, a critical distribution channel.

Now, the foreigners who first came to Shanghai were the opium traders, especially Jardine and Matheson. And in my book, I talk about how Jardine and Matheson, and the Lancashire cotton traders in alliance with the opium traders, they lobbied Parliament for a war against China because they wanted to distribute their goods, cotton and opium, not just in Canton, where they had been allowed to base themselves, but they wanted to go up the coast. They wanted to be able to distribute their products down the Yangtze. And so Shanghai, this market-town fishing port at the mouth of the Yangtze River was where Jardine and Matheson and the other British traders hoped to establish their next outpost.

When China was defeated in the Opium War, Jardine and Matheson and a host of other foreign firms, they made Shanghai the most important of the treaty ports. Other treaty ports were established along the east coast of China after the First Opium War. After the Second Opium War, treaty ports were established along the length of the Yangtze River, so these became additional nodes for foreign trade. So, yeah, Shanghai's situation as the sort of entry point to the Yangtze River meant Shanghai was the entry point to the rest of China. Does that explain? Does that answer your question?

Greg Clark

It certainly does, Stella. And is there anything we need to understand about Shanghai as a city of the Pacific, particularly that its relationship with the Pacific Ocean, in a sense, beyond the river and the port-- anything to say about that?

Stella Dong

Yes, there is. Yes, there is. That's another great question. Thank you for reminding me. In terms of-- okay, so Shanghai became the distribution point for foreign goods entering China and eclipsing Canton because of the ability to reach the interior markets. But in terms of international shipping, Shanghai - let me remember this - was equidistant between London-- okay, actually, I'm forgetting the exact numbers, but Shanghai, in terms of sailing time, it was just as easy or just as economical to transport, to ship goods to Shanghai from London as from other ports. It has to do with the Suez Canal. Pardon me. The brain is not what it used to be, but it's in my book. In terms of international, the shipping lines at that time, the shipping routes, it was just-- it made shipping more economical, so it had a favourable location for international and domestic shipping.

In terms of Asia alone, Shanghai was a great location for shipping from Japan or from the north, from Russia or Manchuria or from the south-eastern countries or from India, too. So, yeah, in terms of the regional Asian trade, in terms of domestic Chinese shipping trade and international trading lines, Shanghai was at a preferential location. Also, think about American trade. From San Francisco, you could get to Shanghai, I think, by the 1900s, 1910s-- it was about, what, a week and a half to two weeks in terms of shipping. So, yeah, the location was great for transporting ocean cargoes and, you know, trade was Shanghai's lifeblood. Yeah, it's trade that made Shanghai.

Greg Clark

Stella, that's very helpful. Is there any particular reason why the Communist Party of China, in your mind, could not have been established and fomented in any other city apart from Shanghai?

Stella Dong

Yeah, Shanghai was critical. I keep using that word critical, but it's true. They call it the cradle. It was called the cradle of a revolution in China. And, you know, this is-- okay, this is one of the great contradictions of Shanghai. It was the only place-- because of foreigners, because it was a treaty port and under the jurisdiction of the foreign powers, it was not under the sovereignty of the Chinese government. Because of that, dissidents, revolutionaries, communists, people who were opposed to whatever Chinese government existed at that time, whether it was the imperial government, a warlord government, Chiang Kai-shek's government, they could base themselves in Shanghai, this island, this refuge, sanctuary from the Chinese government's influence and express themselves freely.

And it was not just intellectuals and dissidents and politicians who oppose the Chinese government, but those from throughout Asia. You know, Korean nationalists based themselves there. Sun Yat-sen was able to base himself in Shanghai. It was his sanctuary. You had-- like, one of its landmarks is his home. So he could-- there was-- he could publish in-- he could write about his opposition to the Qing dynasty, the Qing government. 

Shanghai had this whole Western infrastructure of printing presses, newspapers, Western-run colleges and schools. The missionary establishment was there; they had their schools. So you had this nexus of Western ideas and influences, and people gravitated to Shanghai for all of this. They wanted the new ideas. They wanted to be here. They wanted to be just discovering all the things that were forbidden to them in the rest of China.

So communism-- yeah, so the Communist Party was born in Shanghai in a French school that was closed for the summer. Mao Zedong and other leading-- other soon-to-be-important communist leaders were able to gather in Shanghai, away from the arm of the Chinese law but not from its prying eyes. There were always spies in Shanghai, spies for the imperial government, spies for everyone. But without a place like Shanghai, communists and other groups opposed to Beijing could not have organised or disseminated their ideas or gathered disciples, yeah, and been a place for-- I'm not-- there were-- Shanghai offered protests. People could gather for demonstrations. They could carry banners through the streets. Where else in China was this possible?

And may I add-- one thing I was thinking about a lot after I started answering your questions was how Hong Kong is so much like what Shanghai was to China. And to see what's happening in Hong Kong right now, it's just so tragic. Hong Kong is the contemporary Shanghai in the context of mainland China. Hong Kong was the place where people grow, still thrive on the idea of democratic ideals. And again, it's a paradox because Hong Kong was a British colony. That's the only reason that we have this thriving. We have this this island that champions Western ideals. And people are willing to die, to put their lives on the line for these ideals that they cherish. So to see Hong Kong being strangled, it really upsets me. So there's your contemporary comparison.

Caitlin Morrissey

So, Stella, I'd love to ask you, what makes Shanghai, Shanghai, especially in relation-- how does it distinguish itself from the other Chinese cities?

Stella Dong

What makes Shanghai, Shanghai, as I said earlier, now, with all the scores of other modern metropolises in China, it's as if, like, the DNA of Shanghai has been cloned and kind of injected in the rest of China. But Shanghai is still distinct, and I would say that Shanghai will always be singular because-- okay, what's essential is this entrepreneurial energy. Well, I have to-- honestly, I haven't been to Shanghai since 2010.

And, okay, I have to qualify what I was planning to say in that, you know, Shanghai before 1949 drew its population from the immediate lower Yangtze Valley area, from Zhejiang and Jiangsu. So there was a certain Shanghai style, a Shanghai dialect, a regional dialect, and up until 1949 and even up until, I would say, the '80s, Shanghainese knew each other. They had certain manners, a certain snobbishness, and they were distinct, regional-- not just metropolitan group. That's all changed with all the rapid movement of-- with population movements in China. So I hope they're-- so there probably still is-- there are pockets of Shanghai where they still speak Shanghainese and practise certain Shanghai customs. There's a certain style of opera.

But I was about to say-- so entrepreneurial energy, that is something that-- Shanghai has always had a lot of money, a capitalistic energy. And Shanghai, today, is-- okay, it's much bigger, much more developed than it was before economic reforms, and it's expanded into other areas, much more into finance, certainly into technology. Manufacturing has been reinvigorated, and Shanghai has gone into other areas. So, yeah, it's still doing the biggest-- the thing where it wants to be big in every area.

But I would say, the Shanghainese - and now, I'm using that word to encompass the people who've come from all over China since 2000 - they are uniquely energetic in terms of making money and, yeah, find-- just wanting to increase wealth, and they can do it personally and in terms of an organisational context. So you see that material vigour in Shanghai. You also see it in consumerism. Shanghainese love to show off, to dress well. They love consumer goods. That was always true. And it's-- yeah, I would say Shanghai is still a place-- it's still considered the most stylish place in China. And, you know, country bumpkins are looked-- are frowned upon there. So it's the sense of a love of the material and wanting to flaunt it. So let's see what's best-- that's part of the DNA. Well, that's what makes Shanghai, Shanghai.

I also wanted to talk about old Shanghai and new Shanghai. They're strongly influenced by foreign influences, foreigners. The old Shanghai was really three cities. The international settlement, which was controlled, really, by the foreign powers, with the British influence being the strongest. There was the French concession controlled directly by France. Then there was the Chinese Shanghai. Chinese Shanghai was everything that was not controlled from abroad. So that would be the old city of Nanzhou and then the Chinese areas outside of the foreign areas. So that was controlled by the Chinese government. So Shanghai-- from the very beginning, what was outstanding about Shanghai was that the native Chinese were always-- they were open to mixing with-- not mixing-- not necessarily to socialising with foreigners but to adopting their customs, to learning their ideas, to taking everything from the West that was useful to building their city and interesting to them personally.

In the new Shanghai-- okay, definitely when I stay in New Shanghai-- Shanghai of the 1990s was very much like that. And it was fun to be, as-- you know, I consider myself a Westerner, Chinese-American. And it was exhilarating for foreigners, for outsiders to be in Shanghai in the 1990s because it was very open to people from all over the world and Americans, Brits, Filipinos, Taiwanese. There were opportunities to start your own business and to do interesting things, working with Shanghainese.

China, these days-- in the Xi Jinping days, it's not so much fun for foreigners. In fact, it's a lot of trouble. So in that way, Shanghai of the 21st century is different. There's a nationalism there that didn't exist, or one wasn't aware of as powerfully in the 1990s. And that's a function of the policies that Xi Jinping has put into place in this massive indoctrination of young Chinese. So Shanghai, to me, has lost a lot of its sort of openness to Western penetration as I put it. 

Greg Clark

Are there particular legends, narratives or stories that unite the city or whether there are any misunderstandings or misconceptions about the city that are commonly held outside of it? We're trying to get an idea of ideas that Shanghainese people use versus misunderstandings from elsewhere.

Stella Dong

Well, honestly, there are, as you-- in one of your questions, the question I just addressed, you said there are many Shanghai's. Well, there are many types of Shanghainese. Yeah, that's part of Shanghai's complexity. So, you know, Shanghai has this reputation of being a city of city slickers and sharks and of, like, con artists, people who are looking for their opportunity and will take you to the cleaners. That is true. That is a type of Shanghai mentality at the same time that Shanghai also has its idealists and those who are truth seekers. Otherwise, it could not have been this place that nourished revolutionaries and poets and people and dreamers.

But, you know, this is the hard-- yeah, this is a hard question for me to address because Shanghai, it's a city of contradictions. It has so many conflicting elements. And, you know, as I said earlier, if you address any part of the Shanghai persona and try to say, well, that's absolutely how it is or how Shanghainese are or how the city is, then you're going to come across some other-- some conflicting evidence that is equally convincing that, no, maybe they're not, which is why I say that Shanghai is about change and adaptability. Shanghai can-- it's also a city of duplicity. It can change faces. The Shanghainese are very good at being two-faced. That is true, yeah.

Greg Clark

That's very interesting, Stella. I mean, the central theme of your book is about a decadent city, and I wonder if you feel that Shanghai is a decadent city today in the same way that it was in, let's say, the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Is that decadence a kind of permanent feature, or was it a temporary flowering of a certain way of life?

Stella Dong

It was definitely-- yeah, decadence: I would say it does not apply to this time because, I would say, there's a certain-- China of today is-- there's a lot going on beneath the surface that is not pretty. The government doesn't talk about it. Chinese don't talk-- well, many contemporary filmmakers in China have dared to address it. I would say there's a great deal of turmoil in China right now beneath all that social control. But the decadence of Shanghai before 1949 was a kind of, you know, I would say, good, clean decadence. It was Westerner's-- it was a Western-style decadence.

And actually, I used the word-- that subtitle was not my first choice. I wanted to call it 'Profligate City: Shanghai from 1842 to 1949'. My editor said, "No, no, no. That word, Profligate's got to go." So he said, "How about decadent?" OK, decadent. But it's still a good term because decadent-- I think it was decadent because foreign influence was-- foreign influence had two heads. It was some-- it was positive in that it brought these new ideas, new blood to this moribund society, and Shanghainese picked up on what was good about the West.

They also picked up what was bad about the West: opium - let's see - the underside of greed, criminality, gangsterism and criminality. Organised crime flourished in Shanghai because of this materialistic culture, money above everything else. And that was something introduced by the West. So when I say decadence, I'm not just referring to opium dens and prostitution and over-the-top parties, bad behaviour by foreigners.

I'm really talking about the poisoning of-- well, I'm really talking about suffering: suffering on the part of the have-nots because the city that I wrote about, not so much now-- though, there are plenty of migrant workers who do not-- who are really not having a good life in Shanghai. But Shanghai before 1949, there was this huge gap between the rich and the poor. And you would have people dying on the streets, people ignoring other people's suffering. It was natural to step over a corpse on the street. You ignore the beggars. Some of them were professional beggars, true. But that kind of decadence, that was inhumanity which, to me, is the worst kind of sin. But today, there's not that same kind of decadence because the central-- because the party won't allow it. Today's Shanghai, like today's China, is heavily surveilled and policed. You can't really be too decadent without someone knocking on your door.

Greg Clark

I'm going to ask just one other thing about these sort of myths or misconceptions. I mean, one of the images internationally of Shanghai is of a very, very big city with very, very dense building and built environment, almost a city with kind of monotonous density and perhaps the perception that it's a city of anonymity. It's a city of bland sameness in its urban form. It's a city that's almost scary with its size, its scale, its air pollution and other things. So to what extent do you think that kind of view is widely held, and to what extent does it have any elements of truth in it?

Stella Dong

Oh, I would-- OK, yeah, so you're talking about Shanghai now and-- oh, I'm not sure I'm able to talk with much expertise about the urban landscape and-- See this is a very deplorable aspect of Shanghai's evolution in the 21st century, and it started in the 1990s. I would-- I don't know that many-- I haven't spoken to people who actually live in Shanghai right now. I don't have that many acquaintances who live in Shanghai right now. Most of the people I know with Shanghai connections left Shanghai because of what you have just described: the pollution, the monotony, the huge expense. It's not a convenient city to live in. It looks good on the outside. I mean, the nicer places, they look good, but, yeah, the whole--

I would say from my understanding, there are-- yeah, actually, I feel there must be great dissatisfaction among current Shanghai residents. Because the city grew so quickly, there were no real-- you know, there's a lot of corruption involved, no environmental or housing safeguards, a lot of flimsy construction. I would say the quality of life is not what it used to be.

You know, honestly, I have a hard time answering that question, but from a personal point of view, the way Shanghai has developed from the 1990s on is truly appalling. There's just been not much wisdom in planning for real communities. Yeah, what really turned me off Shanghai in the '90s was the way-- the wholesale demolition of neighbourhoods in central Shanghai. You know, people really protested, but there was no-- the money-- it was this alliance of money with government interest. Foreign developers, Chinese developers, they joined hands with corrupt officials to drive people out of their long-time homes, move them out to these concrete blocks in the faraway suburbs. People lost their connections to their own communities. And that, to me, was a huge crime, to destroy these longstanding communities, neighbourhoods that had been there for decades. You cannot replicate a community. That went on, on a large scale, throughout Greater Shanghai. So I can't imagine people really have a-- I'm trying to imagine these communities in the outskirts of Shanghai. You know, certainly, there are wealthy enclaves where people choose to live. But to the extent that I can answer that question, I just feel there is a problem of a lack of community feeling, a sense of isolation in these developments that have been built outside the central city and, actually, within Shanghai proper.

There's a lot of movement. People don't stay there long. In the 1990s and 2000s, there were a lot of foreigners living in Shanghai, young people coming in. I can't speak to what's happening right now, but I don't get the sense that there's a real feeling of people living in distinct neighbourhoods in Shanghai the way there once had been.

Caitlin Morrissey

So, Stella, are there influential leaders or visionary leaders that stand out in your mind as having had a strong influence on Shanghai? 

Stella Dong

I would say the leaders that Shanghai has produced-- everything-- before 1949, everything important-- OK, between 1842 to and 1949, everything important that happened in China happened first, it had its inception in Shanghai. So all the leaders that came to the fore politically and culturally in China during that period, they were also people living in Shanghai because, again, that was the one place in China where you could freely express yourself and get access to so much. So the city attracted people with leadership potential and talent from throughout China.

So that's a tricky question to ask in terms of Shanghai because I'm really-- when I'm answering it, I'm really picking out people who were important to China in general during that period like Sun Yat-sen. As I said earlier, he had a house in Shanghai to which he could always retreat whenever he got into trouble in Canton because he was always going down south to try to start some new rebellion or revolt against the current Chinese government. And he always failed, so he would always hightail it back to Shanghai where he was safe.

People, you know-- so, again, you know, movie stars and entertainers were leaders, or they were-- they comprised whatever-- like, cultural celebrities, Shanghai had, because Shanghai was the Hollywood of China, and Chinese films got their start in Shanghai. And every major Hollywood film always had a premiere in Shanghai. So I would say, in the entertainment world-- you know, the Shanghainese, in terms of culture, there was, like, serious culture as represented by literary figures like Lu Xun and Mao Dun who really were-- started to-- they were important figures in the May Fourth Movement in terms of outlining, starting, innovating new ways of writing, writing in vernacular Chinese and addressing social reality. So they were important. So Mao Dun, Lu Xun, all these writers and essayists and critics, who came to the fore in the '20s and '30s, these were serious intellectuals.

But most people in Shanghai were not of a serious intellectual bent. They liked the movies; they liked light entertainment. So movie stars, Chinese movie stars were their heroes-- people. So it's, yeah-- so Mao Dun, Lu Xun. Let's see, other Chinese writers. Yeah, that was a hard question to grapple with. So I would say, Shanghai leaders-- you know, there probably were others on the political stage, but, yeah, I can't answer that as well as I would like to.

It just occurred to me, of course, gangsters, Du Yuesheng. Oh, yeah. The most-- probably the most important person in terms of having his roots in Shanghai and being essentially a Shanghai character in every way, Du Yeusheng. He was the top gangster in Shanghai, and he was a creature of the under-- yeah, he was a man-- I can't even begin to describe him. Yeah, if there's one person who epitomises Shanghai and who was a leader, definitely, Du Yuesheng, a poor boy who was born on the wrong side of the tracks in Pudong.

He apprenticed himself to another gangster Huang Jinrong who was chief of the-- Huang Jinrong was chief of the French Concession Chinese detectives who make money through corruption. But Du Yeusheng learned-- he learned very quickly and became-- he got all of the opium smuggling in Shanghai. He got control of all the opium cartels and single-handedly catapulted himself to the most powerful person in Shanghai. Foreigners and Chinese all had to pay respects to him: he was rich, he was powerful, he was an outlaw. He was a criminal, but he also was a patriot. He gave huge amounts of money to refugees and to patriotic causes during the Japanese invasion. He died not that wealthy in Hong Kong. Very, very interesting character, quintessentially Shanghainese. So that's the man.

Caitlin Morrissey

Stella, is there anything you would like to say about discoveries and inventions in Shanghai? 

Stella Dong

The only thing invented-- it never-- everything-- Shanghai's talent was for copying, for adapting and copying. So it couldn't-- it didn't invent anything; it imitated. It imitated everything that was practical and important from the West. OK, it had the first tramway, the first modern skyscraper, like, whatever the first was from the West - air conditioning - Shanghai had it. That was its talent. It didn't create; it adapted and copied. 

Greg Clark

Maybe, Stella, you might want to mention any kind of cuisine that is invented in Shanghai. Or you might want to mention political movements that were invented in Shanghai. 

Stella Dong

Oh, yes. Well, actually, as we discussed earlier, the Communist Party was born in Shanghai. Really, I don't know where-- without Shanghai, I wonder if it could have been able to flourish as well. Yeah, I think leftist movements in general were able to thrive and grow in Shanghai.

So I mentioned the literary scene, important writers. So yeah, May 18th-- May 7th movement that started in Beijing. But out of it-- but Shanghai, it gave a home. It allowed the cultural-- it allowed proponents of developing a new literature to gather and exchange ideas in Shanghai. So I would say, in general, literary writers found a place in Shanghai to discuss and criticise the birth of a native kind of Chinese literature that specifically addressed the issues of the day that try to-- well, that had a socialist attitude. How are we going-- how are we going to save the country?

In Shanghai, in the '20s and '30s, all of the cultural discussion centred around a Chinese renaissance rescuing China from fascism, from the Japanese, from Western domination. So I don't think there was much room for discussion of much else because, all this time, there was civil war. Most of the time, there was some kind of military threat. It was always a city that kind of lived on the edge. So I didn't directly answer your question, but the movements that developed from Shanghai, they all had to do with national salvation or addressing questions of Chinese identity in literature or other ways.

Greg Clark

I think that's a superb answer, Stella. Now, what about the food?

Stella Dong

Now, you truly have touched upon my weak point. Yeah, this is shocking. I'm a New Yorker. You would think I would care about food. I eat out a lot. All of my friends are foodies. When it comes to food, I think I have deliberately tried to make-- to not-- I have no vocabulary when it comes to food. I cannot describe taste, how to cook something. I can't cook; I do a lot of takeout.

OK, there is-- yes, yes, there is a distinct Shanghai cuisine, a regional Shanghai cuisine that is based-- that takes advantage of the availability of fresh fish and fresh seafood from the lakes in the Yangtze Valley area, from the waters of the Yangtze River. So eels and shrimp and crab, these are all foods that are highly prized. I mean, these are foods that are prepared with great skill by Shanghainese chefs. And, in general, the quality of the food-- the taste, it's sugary and kind of sweet. Little bit too sugary and sweet for me. But-- this is truly, truly embarrassing.

Ah, dumplings. OK, Shanghainese vegetable dumplings are world-famous even in New York. We have eateries that specialise only in Shanghai-style dumplings. 

Caitlin Morrissey

So, Stella, if we'd have asked you the right question, was there anything else that you would have wanted to say about the DNA of Shanghai?

Stella Dong

Let me quickly scroll through my notes. Let me see what else I don't want to leave out. Oh, you know, you asked-- you had this question about the greatest shocks in Shanghai history. So let me just-- yeah, since you asked. Very-- Shanghai is a much-- has been accustomed to shocks and surprises. It's a pretty tough city, but 1927-- you know, another way the Communist Party had its roots in Shanghai was, Shanghai in 1927 was the scene of a famous coup by the right-wing of the Kuomintang Party, the nationalist party, against its left-wing.

In 1927, that was two years after Sun Yat-sen's death. And he had formed an alliance with the Soviet Comintern which sent Soviet operatives to help the Kuomintang fight the warlords who controlled Chinese Shanghai and much of China. So Chiang Kai-shek engineered a coup against the left-wing of the Kuomintang with the help of Du Yuesheng and Shanghai's criminal gangs. In 1927, Zhou Enlai had been sent by the Comintern to Shanghai to organise the very active labour unions against the warlord who controlled Chinese Shanghai. They succeeded. The labour unionists, they organized and defeated the local warlord, and they were holding Chinese Shanghai for the arrival of the Kuomintang's army. The army was moving up from Guangdong. Well, in the interim, Chiang Kai-shek got Duo Yuesheng in league with some small, like, militarist to basically massacre the labour unionists. It was infamous, notorious, horrible massacre. Hundreds were said to have died or died by being thrown into boiling-- into the engines, boiling cauldron of locomotives. I'm not sure about that, but it was a pretty bloody massacre.

And as a result of that, the left-wing of the Kuomintang was decimated, and this coup enabled Chiang Kai-shek to come to power. And actually, that spread the left-wing and the communists. It forced the communists and left-wing to find other-- to move their base to a base-- to other parts of China. So actually, this relates to what I said earlier. You know, I said, would communism have developed without-- communism did develop once it was the-- communist leadership did develop once it was ejected from Shanghai. It was forced to just disperse to the rural areas where, then, it got its feet. Communism became a rural movement after it lost its base in Shanghai. But, yeah, Shanghai played a seminal role in communism's development. But that was-- that massacre in Shanghai is what enabled Chiang Kai-shek to come to power and to become the leader of this small Republic of China that he declared in the latter half of 1927.

And then the other-- another shock was the great-- the bombing of the Great World Amusement Centre. Yeah, we're talking-- the Great World Amusement Centre is another emblem of Shanghai. If there's any one physical building in Shanghai that I would say represents the city in a mythical and metaphorical aspects, it would be the Great World Amusement Centre, this seven-story, wedding-cake entertainment complex built by a Chinese millionaire made his fortune in a herbal brain tonic that sold very well. He made millions on it because he put a picture of his Jewish friend on the label. Chinese considered Jews to be very smart. So by putting a picture of-- because they were businesspeople. By putting a picture of his Jewish friend on the tonic, it was a great marketing gambit. Chinese bought the brain tonic. This millionaire wanted to give back to the Chinese of Shanghai. He built this seven-story entertainment complex meant to offer good family fun for all.

Instead, 10 years after he built it, a gangster forced him to sell it to him. Gangsters turned it into this den of iniquities. In 1937 was a famous blacks-- the famous Black Saturday bombing when a Chinese aeroplane mistaking a supposed-- Chinese aeroplane mistakenly dropped bombs in front of the Great World Amusement Centre, another bomb in front of the Cathay Hotel, injuring hundreds of people. And that was the beginning, really, of the Japanese invasion. That was the beginning of the dark days. So that was another great shock. And the third shock would, of course, be communist soldiers arriving in Shanghai to take it over in 1949, May. So that I wanted to add since I thought that was a nice question. So that's it. That's it.

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