Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road

By Rob Schmitz

Crown

★★★★

US radio correspondent Rob Schmitz has seized the opportunity to write a real-life soap opera by relating the personal stories of a captivating cast of characters almost literally on his doorstep in Shanghai. This is an empathetic appraisal of his neighbours’ ambitions, however inflated or modest, in China’s thrusting economic powerhouse. Schmitz has lived in the titular two-mile street (whose untrans­lated name is the less dreamy Changle Lu) in the former French Concession for several years and writes fondly of the get-rich-quick plan of Auntie Fu and the struggles of the sandwich-shop entrepreneur who sells accordions on the side. Schmitz’s account is a micro­cosm of a teeming city in a country in a hurry, his fellow residents buying into the officially sanctioned Chinese capitalist dream (or its nightmare equivalent). Old folks, shoppers, strolling couples, beggars, schoolchildren: all human life is here. Schmitz sketches a charming picture, but, of course, the street isn’t paradise and not all of its residents are happy, eternally or other­wise. This is China in a snow globe.