I was in Shanghai for a few days this week. I previously visited this part of the world when I was in Hong Kong a few times before British handed it back to the Chinese government. So, I am not without experience when it concerns the Chinese.
I have opportunity to hear the same news media as everyone else and a lot of the scuttlebutt too. I've also heard the warnings "You only see what they want you to see." All I can say is, what I found in Shanghai was not what I expected.
While I did see a number of surveillance cameras in the airport and the hotel, I see these in US cities too, (I used to install and service security systems, so I have an eye for this). Not once was I escorted or followed by the military, the police or any other security people. I was allowed to interact freely with anyone I encountered. Those people I did see, did not have that dark countenance of an oppressed people. If anything, I was surprised by an unexpected sense of national pride. Maybe it wasn't out and out patriotism, but it was certainly pride as a people with a very long history.
Certainly my stay was not long enough nor was it in enough locations around the country to render an authoritative account, but it was enough to give me pause.