Shanghai’s Subway: Board with a fare and a prayer

Few topics are as near and dear to me as Shanghai’s world-beating subway system. In the space of nearly a decade in this city, it has made accessible places and people that once felt like an adventurous pain-in-the-neck to visit. That’s progress. Alas, there have long been indications that all this convenience has come at a serious price – in safety. And on Tuesday afternoon those indications became something tangible: human error resulted in a collision that injured more than 270 people on line 10.

This week, my Bloomberg World View column takes a look at the reaction to the crash – the Party’s, the city’s, and mine. You can find it here.

Where the ‘Scrap Has Gone.

Regular readers, if they’re still stopping by, have probably noticed that things have ground to a virtual standstill around these parts. This is the result of a number of factors, but the two key ones are a) my time and attention is very focused on a book project at the moment; and b) I’m now doing a weekly column for Bloomberg. I’ve had almost nothing to say about either project here, so – on the occasion of the mid-Autumn Festival – allow me to point my readers to this week’s column, and announce that future columns will be available – on a mostly weekly basis – at the World View section of the new Bloomberg View site. It’s an unusual column, as columns go, in that it’s specifically concerned with public opinion in China. Thus, this week’s missive concerns the so-called Good Samaritan problem in China, and how Chinese folks are talking about it.

In addition to my piece on the Good Samaritan issue, you might also have a look at Tania Branigan’s excellent piece for the Guardian, a fascinating look at the issue from a Confucian perspective at the (always fascinating) Useless Tree blog, and a lengthy, three-part look at the issue (from 2009) at the ChinaHopeLive blog (part I, II, and III).

In the meantime, I’m going to make a concerted effort to do a better job of updating here – at least, updates re my Bloomberg pieces. Watch, too, for images from some of the world’s hidden recycling and waste processing zones, taken as part of my book project.

[UPDATE, 10 minutes later: While I’m at it – I think the world would be a better place if more people knew the tale of Hank Mizell and Jungle Rock.]

How the Shanghainese Spend Their Traditional Holidays: Downloading

Here’s a phenomenon that I’ve yet to see generate much comment: during Chinese holiday weekends (like this weekend, in which they are supposed to be celebrating the mid-Autumn Festival), the internet grinds to a near standstill in Shanghai. I suppose there are several explanations for this occasionally observed (by me and this other guy I know) phenomenon, but I’m going to go with the simplest one: the Shanghainese like to spend their traditional holidays playing graphics intensive games and downloading really large files (to hell with eating mooncakes). This is made more difficult by the simple, unfortunate fact that Shanghai has the slowest internet in China.

[Below, Packaged Mooncakes with New Laptop, by Pieter Claesz]

I suppose it’s the case that people in other countries, too, like to celebrate the holidays by cruising the internet. But, at least where I’m from (Minnesota, USA), the demands on networks actually decrease during holidays, and increase during the work week. Why that isn’t the case in Shanghai is a topic for those much more familiar with these matters than me. For now, I’d just like to mention that – since it’s a holiday weekend – I’m desperate to download some very large files, and very frustrated that it’s just not going to happen.

Happy Mooncake Festival, peeps, and sorry to have been out of sight for so long.