Rising China leaves millions behind

We are approaching a one-lane feeder lane on a massive spaghetti junction in Shanghai; there are elevated expressways either side of us. As we draw closer we are stalled by a traffic jam that encapsulates the China I have experienced the past couple of weeks of travel and work. We are slowed down by a truck that is barely moving up the overpass, overladen with goods, which spill out on either side and tower high above. Trapped behind the truck are swish black cars flashing their lights, impatiently trying to get past and almost causing a collision.

This is China: a slow and overbearing state moves gradually ahead of the increasingly impatient middle-class, which wants to proceed at its own speed. Of course this isn’t possible, just as we were not able to pass the truck. The road is too narrow and the truck remains firmly in place, blocking everyone behind him. The impatience is palpable in everyday life. The middle-class in particular is eager to move ahead in the rat race to capitalise on the economic liberalisation in China. This rat race is built on real economic growth and ever-expanding riches, but has also engendered a huge gulf between the winners and losers of the new China.