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David Li is the founder of Shanghai-based hackerspace XinCheJian. He shares his take on life and work in the fast-paced Chinese city with Alex Gallafent.

In 2005, at the start of my first visit to Shanghai, the city clothed itself in a growling thunderstorm. When dusk fell and neon began to score the sky, the city was more Blade Runner-y than I thought a real place possible to be. I remember diving into a luxe spa for a post-train massage, slipping, mildly terrified, into an urgent slumber, if that’s not a contradiction, as rain clattered the roof.

Shanghai will do that to you: the intensity, the thrill, the — um — overwriting. It’s a sensation David Li knows well. He was born in Taiwan, studied computer science at USC, and worked as a programmer in Los Angeles during what he remembers as “the good old fun days” before the…

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