Shanghai’s development has created opportunities, Zao says, but he has kept his life simple. He rises early each day to buy supplies for the restaurant; after work he cooks dinner for his wife and daughter before trundling off to bed. “Every once in a while I’ll go around the corner to get a coffee at the Starbucks,” he says. “Or I’ll go out to karaoke with some of our employees.”
For others, the pace of change has been more unnerving. “I joke with my friends that if you really want to make money in China, you should open a psychiatric hospital,” says Liu, the singer. And yet, he adds, “I have many friends who are really thankful for this crazy era.”
Chen Danyan, the novelist, says, “People look for peace in the place where they grew up. But I come home after three months away and everything seems different.” She sighs. “Living in Shanghai is like being in a speeding car, unable to focus on all the images streaming past. All you can do is sit back and feel the wind in your face.”
David Devoss profiled Macau for Smithsonian in 2008. Lauren Hilgers is a freelance writer living in Shanghai. New Jersey native Justin Guariglia now works out of Taipei.