Et still exist, those moments when the city feels like the new New York. One August evening, the Shanghai International Dance Center is lit up. When building it, the architects had the “Grand Jeté” in mind, the balancing act in ballet. Between a metro station, a freeway and a park, the 1200-seat performance hall is surrounded by fountains, trees, courtyards, a huge rehearsal room, 50 small studios and a dance school for 1500 children. It is a center of high culture that is unique in Asia.
The piece being performed is called “The Dark”. In the first part, the dancers wear white robes, they embrace each other, the stage is bright. Then the pitch of the electrobeats drops. Scene, clothes, choreography: everything goes black. The dancers reach for each other and reach into the void, are pulled back into the darkness by black ribbons. The director called the part “Hunger”. Anneliese Charek designed it when she was locked up for two months like all 26 million Shanghainese. It’s a play about the toughest lockdown the world has ever seen. State terror that denies everything that the theater stands for. A throwback to barbarism.
China’s government is still keeping people trapped in their homes in half the country with its zero-Covid policy. Throughout August, the leadership placed 200 cities under hard or moderate lockdowns. But Shanghai, once the most exciting economic center in the world, is like no other city in the country. People here have often felt part of the global elite.
Police cars dominate the streetscape
Three months after the end of the lockdown, at least the plane trees of the French concession are still standing. The “Boom Boom Bagels” opened its shutters wide at 38 degrees in the evening. Chinese students are eating sandwiches behind the counter that stretches across the front. In front of them, on Anfu Street, foreigners are standing and drinking beer. If dozens of people weren’t waiting in front of a white container on the opposite side to be tested for Covid, everything seemed the same as usual. A black jeep from the People’s Armed Police pulls up. As with the countless other police cars that have shaped the streets of Shanghai since the lockdown, the blue lights are on. It alternates with red lights on every corner of the city.
You get a feeling like in the American series “We own this city”, in which patrol officers walk through the ghettos and knock liquor bottles out of the hands of homeless people with their batons. This is one of the most expensive residential areas in China, where in the evening the Porsches drive into the underground garages of apartment blocks where 100 square meters of living space cost two million euros. Not that status didn’t matter when the leadership locked up the people.