Are China auto shows no longer a full-contact sport?

SHANGHAI -- As I prepared for my fourth China auto show, I rued the fact that I couldn't pack a pair of shoulder pads to help me fight through the hordes of spectators who routinely infiltrate the press days.

But I was pleasantly surprised as the gates opened on this year's event in Shanghai.

There were no crushing masses of amatuer photographers. No stampede of college students running from stand to stand, snatching handouts.

Indeed, there was plenty of elbow room as I strolled -- almost carefree -- down wide aisles.

And I didn't need to use my elbows once to throw into someone's ribs to clear a path through a thicket of bodies, as I often did at previous shows.

And to top it all off, exhibitors seem to have turned down the deafening cacophony of noise ringing from their stands.

I can actually hear myself think as I write this. There are still a lot of rough around-the-edges parts at this year's show.

But dare I say that Shanghai is finally bordering on civility?

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