No intention of entering the irresolvable Shanghai v Beijing taste wars. Think Yankees v Redsox, England v France, Rome v Milan, LA v SF. But this is what we notice on a brief return to Shanghai, where we lived for 16 months, after being in Beijing for eight.

- Scale: In its streets, its shops, its buildings, and its ambiance, Shanghai is built for human beings. Beijing, for super-human beings: the emperors of old, the party leaders of today. Crossing the street in front of our apartment in downtown Shanghai required getting across four lanes. In downtown Beijing, 15. (Huangpi Rd in Shanghai, vs East Third Ring Road in Beijing.) Yes, there are little neighborhoods in Beijing, and yes, Shanghai's Pudong district has Beijing-like vast lunar expanses. But in general Beijing is the city of giant buildings and giant roads. Shanghai's People's Square is full of curved paths and intimate areas. Beijing's Tiananmen Square -- well, everyone has seen that.

- The state: In Beijing, it's everywhere. Ministries; embassies; soldiers; police. In Shanghai... government? What government?

- Beer: In Shanghai, no to Yanjing, yes to REEB!

- Video stores in Shanghai: more numerous, better stocked, easier to find. See "absence of state power," above.

- Traffic: Much more congested in Beijing, much more reckless in Shanghai. Probably these two are related. That is, Shanghai drivers can build up a dangerous head of steam.

- Pollution: Let's not get into it.

- Stylishly: The way many Shanghainese women carry themselves. No matter what combination of stripes, plaid, op-art, argyles, Hello Kitty, etc they are wearing at the same time.

- Public art: My measure is the share of available billboard and building-side space devoted to Olympic propaganda morale-building posters and pictures. In Beijing, >90%. In Shanghai,

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