In addition to the Chinese at the meeting in the city’s French Concession, including Mao, there was one representative of the Comintern, or the Communist International. For a period, some attendees were airbrushed out of official accounts, as they were later accused of collaborating with the Imperial army in the treacherous civil war and Japanese occupation in the 1930s.
In 21st-century China, such apparently glaring incongruities – allowing one of the party’s “sacred sites” to sit amid a yuppie wonderland of upmarket shops and restaurants – barely generates a resigned sigh these days, let alone criticism. “People can see the progress of the party,” Xia Jianming, the Shanghai party school’s director general, told me when I visited some years back. “This [setting] is a kind of harmony. In our society, people of different levels may have different ways of meeting their requirements.”