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Nanjing Donglu, Shanghai's busiest shopping street

Although the lights have been out for quite some time, Shanghai once beguiled foreigners with its seductive mix of tradition and sophistication. Now Shanghai is reawakening and dusting off its party shoes for another silken tango with the wider world.

Shanghai has been the domain of adventurers, swindlers, gamblers, drug runners, idle rich, dandies, tycoons, missionaries, gangsters and backstreet pimps; a dark memory during the long years of forgetting that the Communists visited upon their new China.

All through these years of oblivion, the architects of this social experiment firmly wedged one foot against the door on Shanghai's past. Today Shanghai has reawakened and is busy snapping the dust off its cummerbund. The sun rises every day to a city typifying the huge disparities of modern China: monumental building projects push skyward and glinting department stores swing open their doors to a stylish elite while child beggars, prostitutes and the impoverished gather outside. Always a city of jostling juxtapositions, Shanghai is entering the new millenium running hot on the friction of contrast and the energy of its own fevered growth.

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