A piece in That’s Magazine:
Pollution is not yet a major problem but China’s planners aren’t ignoring it – they can’t.
These are the tragicomically wrong words of an American film crew visiting Shanghai in 1973 – two years after Beijing took the ROC’s seat in the United Nations and one year after Nixon’s historic ice-breaking visit. It was also just three years before the deaths of Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong and the end of the Cultural Revolution era, and a year when Deng Xiaoping still withered in internal exile in rural Jiangxi.
The two-part video gives us a window into a very different China: one in which “the only policemen you see are unarmed traffic cops,” “medical care and education are virtually free,” “dope, gambling and prostitutes” are practically non-existent, “there is almost no dirt” and there is “no income tax” and “no mortgages or credit cards.”
It sounds like a much more innocent time on the surface; but it was also the time when armed Red Guard factions fought on the streets, neighbors ratted out neighbors and teachers, intellectuals, descendants of the landed class and anyone remotely critical of Mao’s regime was publicly humiliated, beaten, driven to suicide, sent to forced labor camps or outright killed.
It was also a time when any film crew entering the country would be given the North Korea treatment: chauffeured to manicured destinations to interview pre-screened and fully prepped subjects.
However you look at it, though, it’s still a fascinating glimpse until the life of a city – and country – that has seen cataclysmic changes in the past four decades.