Interview

by Malcolm Riddell

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3 | The ‘Haipai’ - ‘Jingpai’ Divide

CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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Founder of CHINADebate

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July 25, 2021
3 | The ‘Haipai’ - ‘Jingpai’ Divide
3 | The ‘Haipai’ - ‘Jingpai’ Divide
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Test question: Which qipaos reflect haipai culture, and which jingpai? For extra credit, explain your choices.

Cheng Li

Director, Brookings Institution, John L. Thornton China Center

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BIG IDEA | ‘Just as New York and Washington are profoundly different from each other, the same can be said about Shanghai and Beijing.’

Malcolm Riddell: ‘In your book, you distinguish between Shanghai as haipai culture and Beijing as jingpai culture. Could you explain that and how is it important in our understanding of China's middle-class overall?’

Cheng Li: ‘You earlier made a comparison between Shanghai and New York.’

  • ‘Indeed, Shanghai is to China what New York City is to the United States.’
  • ‘And just as New York and Washington are profoundly different from each other, the same can be said about Shanghai and Beijing.’

‘The Chinese have illuminated the differences between jingpai and haipai for over a century, ever since the 1919 May 4th movement, if not earlier.’

  • ‘Beijing culture, jingpai, is characterized as aristocratic, conservative, elitist and bureaucratic.’
  • ‘Shanghai culture, haipai, as pragmatic, entrepreneurial, innovative, leisurely, holistic, and forward-looking.’
  • ‘Malcolm, you and our viewers can tell I come from Shanghai with all these terrible biases.’

‘Chinese scholar, Yang Dongping, has described politics as the salt in Beijing, without which life has no taste, no flavor.’

  • ‘People in Shanghai don't bother to discuss politics so much. They love to talk about doing business and entrepreneurship.’
  • ‘Even during times of tensions with Taiwan, for example, in 1996, and also more recently, Shanghai's leaders reached out to the Taiwanese - actually there's huge Taiwanese community living in Shanghai - and said, "Don't leave. Shanghai will continue to do business with you." ’
  • ‘That’s haipai in contrast to jingpai.’

‘Shanghai’s distinct entrepreneurial spirit and cultural identity (haipai culture) quickly gained prominence after Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform and opening up took root in the 1980s and 1990s.’

  • ‘Many of the important changes that have taken place over recent decades — the establishment of a stock market, foreign investment, the rise of private firms, land leasing, property booms, and expansion of higher education — either began in Shanghai or have otherwise affected this born-again city in a deep and enduring way.’

‘These developments have contributed to the birth and growth of a new socioeconomic stratum, the members of which enjoy a middle-class lifestyle with private property, cars, accumulated financial assets, and the financial freedom to travel overseas and educate their children abroad.’

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1 | 'Middle Class Shanghai: Reshaping U.S.-China Engagement' by Cheng Li

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