The Beijing-Shanghai rivalry fascinates me. Not because it is so unusual, but because it is so pronounced and because it matters.
Beijing is the seat of government, yet it is also China’s art, media and tech city. Shanghai is the city of business and finance, yet it is both historically and today, generally the most open to foreigners. Food-wise, most would give Beijing the nod, but I love Shanghai food and consider it a very sophisticated, subtle, and underrated cuisine. One of the biggest differences between Beijing and Shanghai is language. “Shanghai people” have their own dialect that is pretty much incomprehensible to outsiders and they love using it for that very reason. Shanghai is considered snobbier.
The Los Angeles Times has a fun and interesting story on this long-time rivalry A tale of China’s two great cities: The rivalry between Beijing and Shanghai. It deems Shanghai more fashionable, more for women and more cosmopolitan than Beijing. But Beijing holds the power.
These paragraphs sum up the stereotypes I must often hear from the Chinese themselves:
Shanghai men are reputed to be vicious in business — hence the term shanghaied — but wimps at home. “At home, they do the dishes, take out the trash and give their wife/mistress a neck rub after the hard day she put in shopping,” wrote one blogger on a site called China Forum.
To the Shanghainese, the Beijingers — and all northerners, for that matter — are peasants.
“They smell like garlic,” said restaurateur Xu, voicing a popular refrain. “We Shanghai people keep ourselves and our homes very clean. We are more refined. We drink coffee. They only drink tea.”
In the legal arena, Shanghai stands somewhat alone in that Shanghai lawyers generally do not play well outside Shanghai, and vice-versa. This is less true of Beijing.
Shanghai versus Beijing. What do you think? Which city is best for which sort of foreign business? Why did you establish your business in Shanghai, as opposed to Beijing, and vice-versa? Let us know.