In the present day, class, money, and privilege threaten to reinstate a separate existence that fails to serve the long-term best interests of the city’s Chinese and Western inhabitants. Tourists sequestered on Shamian or businessmen dwelling in the extremely high-end new eastern suburbs may be in danger of once again becoming “insular dwellers.” Even transportation through city streets can make an enormous difference in perceptions and thus relations. Flashy private cars might be the equivalent of Victorian sedan chair riders. On the subway or on foot, the foreigner in Guangzhou is greeted with attention, generally of a bemused and friendly nature reminiscent of the Thirteen Factories era. Peaceful existence, enabled by knowledge from mutual interaction, seems predicated on a carefully articulated social and residential proximity and, at least to a degree, equality. While the nature of empires, East and West, has changed, the awareness of how habitation and cross-cultural relations relate remains important to establishing peace and prosperity at their intersections.
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