One recent afternoon, I was walking up Nanjing West Road, Shanghai's traditional shopping street, when I ran into a crowd of protesters being chased off by a plainclothes cop wielding a bullhorn and a line of uniformed police. Demonstrations like this in the heart of the city are rare and sensitive for the government, which fears political unrest as China's economic growth continues to slow.
I asked a fleeing protester what had happened.
"Don't walk alongside me," pleaded the woman, named Zhao, staring straight ahead. "The police will detain me."