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Saturday, 20 October, 2001, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Shanghai showcase
Shanghai skyline
Shanghai's skyscrapers rose in just a decade
Jon Leyne

They put up the welcome signs so early, some people thought they had mistaken the date.

But there is no mistaking the fact that the Chinese are glowing with pride at hosting this summit meeting of leaders from the Asia-Pacific region.

The battle against terrorism may have taken over the agenda, but China is determined not to miss the opportunity to showcase this gleaming city.

For more than a year the Chinese authorities have been arranging special English lessons and teaching good manners, or "raising the level of our citizens" as they put it.

Guard in front of APEC sign
An extra 10,000 police were drafted in
At the hotel where President Bush has been staying, staff have been fed American food - including southern fried chicken and hotdogs - in their canteen to mark the occasion.

The lobby sports hundreds of yellow Texas roses and a statue of a Chinese Dragon, intricately carved out of margarine.

As President Bush swept into the city in his motorcade, he is unlikely to have seen many of these newly trained citizens.

I travelled in a day earlier with Colin Powell's party. On the long ride from the airport every road was closed off. Not just every road that we drove on, but every road connecting into it as well.

There are a few tourists peering through the fence of the convention centre, the suspicion is that many of them are really plain clothes security agents. An extra 10,000 police are said to have been drafted in. It seems an underestimate. Several thousand appear to be stationed in the main conference hotel alone.

Futuristic city

Even without the citizens, Mr Bush's view will have been remarkable. This is the city of the future - Fritz Lang's Metropolis made real. Science fiction skyscrapers peer over elevated urban motorways.

Some summit meetings are being held in the world's third highest building. The international media centre is under the shadow of a communications tower that seems to have been modelled on a Dan Dare spaceship.

All of this has been built in barely a decade. The area China hopes to become its new financial capital - perhaps the financial capital of Asia - was mostly green fields when President Bush's father took office in 1988.

The old anecdote about half the world's construction cranes being here is no longer true, if it ever was. The work is already almost finished.

George W Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin
Bush met China's leader for the first time
But the transformation was summed up for me by the sight of a Chinese minister, no doubt a faithful member of the party, addressing a meeting of chief executives in a pinstripe suit.

Mr Bush, of course, will not have much chance to sightsee.

For once his usual leisurely schedule has been scrapped. Instead, Mr Bush is busily meeting every leader he can find in order to reinforce his grand coalition against terrorism.

Twenty five minutes for the Sultan of Brunei. Half an hour with the President of Peru. Meetings with the Malaysians, the Japanese, the prime minister of Singapore. The list goes on.

Warm welcome

Central to the summit was Mr Bush's first meeting with the Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, which ended with warm words all round.

A day earlier Colin Powell even spoke of the "enlightened political leadership" of the Chinese Government. Right wingers in Washington must still be choking on the phrase. How long ago was it that the two nations were at loggerheads over an American spy plane?

And it is not just relations with China that are being changed. Russia appears close to agreeing a deal to revise the anti-ballistic missile treaty - lifting its objections to an American system of missile defence.

Many of these developments were moving slowly forward before 11 September. Suddenly they seem to be flashing past. It is as if life - the movie - has been put on double or treble speed.

How suitable that it is all happening here, amongst the futuristic skyscrapers. A new, new world order is being created.

Or, as Colin Powell put it, it is not just that the Cold War is over - now the post Cold War is over too.

See also:

20 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bush urges unity against terrorism
18 Feb 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Shanghai: Old meets new
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