The immense metropolis of Shanghai has a sci-fi tinge, thick with smog and traffic, its skyline dotted with random bits of showpiece architecture. With vast stretches of department stores, boutiques and Starbucks, Shanghai can seem, at times, as familiar as any European capital. At the same time, the place still bears the marks of its recent history as a peasant society. Shanties languish in the shadows of massive skyscrapers. Walk into a public toilet, and one is likely to find just a hole in the ground.