I may not be the most qualified person to write about this topic but I'll give it a shot. I have been living in Shanghai for almost a year whereas I've only stayed a mere 48 hours in Beijing. Whenever I go to a new city, I always evaluate how "livable" the place is.
Instead of focusing on the tourist spots, I focus my attention on the transport system, convenience, infrastructures, cleanliness, "foreigner-friendliness", and overall safety. (In fact, with these factors considered I have Zurich, Tokyo, and Toronto topping the list out of the cities I've been to.)
Here's how Shanghai and Beijing fare out against each other:
- Transport System - Because of last year's Olympics, Beijing has renovated their subway system by adding new lines from the downtown to tourists spots of the city. You pay a standard fare of 2RMB compared to Shanghai's fare which ranges from 3-5RMB, however this price difference probably is the reason why all of the transfer points are 2 km away and platforms are at the center of the world. (RESULT: Shanghai)
- Convenience - By convenience, I mean availability of stores and restaurants in a given neighborhood. We are lucky to stay in a hotel near Tiananmen Square and hence we were fortunate to find a restaurant at 9:30pm. In Pudong, Shanghai it would be quite difficult to find an open place at that time. (RESULT: Not enough info)
- Infrastructures - Ok, a bit of tourist guide here. The Bird's Nest is quite bedazzling but Shanghai also prides itself of SWFC and the Pudong Tower, and let's not forget the EXPO is still coming next year. (RESULT: Shanghai)
- Cleanliness - This is one of the aspects that Beijing gets hands-down. (RESULT: Beijing)
- Foreigner-Friendliness - The only foreigners in Beijing are either tourists or language students. Hence, 2 words (RESULT: Shanghai)
- Safety - In downtown Beijing, there are uniformed guards roaming all over the place. (Unfortunately, when I approached one of them for directions, he said that he's also new in town) Anyway, after my electronic dictionary was stolen from me while commuting in Shanghai, I guess I have no choice but to hand it to Beijing. (RESULT: Beijing)
Beijing - 2 Shanghai - 3
So, I guess it's SHANGHAI after all.