To the Shanghainese, the Beijingers — and all northerners, for that matter — are peasants.
"They smell like garlic," said restaurateur Xu, voicing a popular refrain. "We Shanghai people keep ourselves and our homes very clean. We are more refined. We drink coffee. They only drink tea."
Strands of the personal and the political, often hard to separate, are intertwined in the resentment felt by Shanghainese. Beijing at once embodies northern culture and symbolizes the central government. After the communist victory in 1949, Shanghai's cultural predominance was eclipsed by Beijing's. The city remained, however, the financial capital. Through the 1980s, it paid a staggering share of China's total tax revenue, by some estimates, 70%.
Although former Chinese President Jiang Zemin served as Shanghai's mayor and party secretary, the influence of the so-called Shanghai clique has been eclipsed since Hu Jintao became president in 2003. Then Chen Liangyu, a later Shanghai party secretary, was ousted on corruption charges and replaced on the Politburo by Xi Jinping, the current favorite to succeed Hu as president.