In the late 1980s, there were only 176 cars registered to private individuals in the entire nation of China. Those stats did not include the cavalcades of outmoded Hongqi limousines used to ferry about key Party members, which likely brought the total beyond the three-digit range. Still, contrast this with 2012 when, in what is now the world’s largest automotive market, nearly 20 million vehicles were sold.
That is a significant and rather abrupt increase and has not come without some concomitant (cough) havoc. It is also is nearly one car for every human living in Shanghai, which now ranks as the globe’s most populous city, and is the site of this week’s Chinese Auto Show, an honor it alternates, annually, with Beijing. Having attended the festivities in the capital last year, this sitting was beyond preferable. Alluring, cosmopolitan, and at once fiendishly diverse and monolithically immense, Shanghai is kind of like Haussmann’s plan for Paris, but with every block sprouting brightly illuminated seventy-story erection. In contrast, Beijing is more like 19th century Leeds, but with every block sprouting recalcitrant glandular growths and a rheumy pallor.Read More »from The hot, and merely lukewarm, models of the Shanghai auto show