[Para 1:] In 1989, when the environment was briefly top of the UK national agenda, a group of Chinese planners came to London. Many of the people who met them wanted to know how the country had managed to get so many citizens to ride bicycles - something the British authorities were unable to do. The Chinese were perplexed. “You don’t understand”, said one.
♣ “In 20 years time, no more bicycles. All cars.” ♣ [I purposely spaced these sentences]
That prediction is being realised. Beijing’s roads, once kerb-to-kerb with bikes, are now choked with cars. In terms of traffic, noise and air pollution,
■ Shanghai could be Lagos or Cairo. ■
I still struggle with interpreting English modal verbs. Here, I'm trying to determine which phrase, either that between the clubs or squares, illustrates China’s actual growth in car usage. I had believed in ODO's Definition 1.1, thus regarded could as a hedge word, and finally picked square.
1.1. Used to indicate possibility
1. But club is the answer (not square). What did I misread? If the writer truly wanted the square to be a fact, why not use the more certain can? Is definition 1.1 the right match?
2. Also, doesn't 'that prediction is being realised' support clubs as the answer?