China, Unplugged

Chen used to let his evenings unfold in the corners of Shanghai's cheapest bars. He was content with his Sprite-and-beer shandies and a stack of car magazines to keep him company. But last September, the 20-year-old engineering major decided to break with routine. He bypassed his usual watering hole and climbed a narrow staircase to a windowless room. There, too, the men were sitting alone, obscured by clouds of cheap cigarette smoke. Chen had found a new hangout. In late May, he spent 32 hours straight in the illegal Internet café, working his way through six packs of Double Happiness...

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