A quick word on China today

16:12


I am finally back from the land where all major social media platforms and Google is banned.. made zero attempts at climbing over the great Chinese firewall, therefore I have absolutely no credit to complain about this self-imposed digital detox. This is my graduation trip to a cluster of Chinese cities (Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Beijing), most likely the only one before I embark on the next important part of my life (also known as "the working life").


What is China like?

A lot of people have asked me why I decided on China for my graduation trip, questions loaded with a lot of trepidation and assumption of this country. If we were to look at a country simply based on the international news reports and media impressions on it, we are really only getting a one-dimensional idea of what it is. Tainted milk powder, man-eating escalators, irresponsible hit-and-run drivers, dishonest and uncultured people, and a whole lot more of horror stories of danger. It definitely fueled a lot of my doubt, but at the same time, I wanted to see and judge for myself. What is China like? Past and present, I've studied about it in theory and papers across modules, but nothing beats walking the ground and seeing the place itself. (Though I would very much wished I had stayed longer to really observe the locals in their daily lives)

A fellow train passenger told me that the cities I've been represent the most developed parts of China and to really fully understand what China is, I've got to visit the 老少边穷 (the old, the minority, the areas near the country's borders, and the poor). This idea is echoed by some of my new Chinese friends. The cities that I managed to visit this time are limited but just based on these, one thing is for sure - China is massive, and the people in this country can vary so much even across and within these developed (mega)cities. This trip definitely sparked a further interest in me, and a deeper curiosity to see what the locals consider 'the true colours of China'.


A thoroughly networked country

China have their own set of social media platforms and digital apps (those that actually have VPN is a select few) - WeChat, Baidu/ Baidu Maps, Alipay, etc and they demonstrate how social media should work to their benefit. Precisely because they are barred from other disorganized and fragmented platforms, they are able to create a cohesive network. Everything is tightly-weaved into their business systems of small to medium to large businesses, with a centralized platform that maximizes the function of the QR code. I was really impressed by this. They have managed to make technology work for them. The world laughed when the Chinese government started banning Facebook, but right now, it is certainly reaping in amazing results.

Considering how geographically big it is, I was equally fascinated by the pace at which the physical networks have been built. Every city has a sprawling metro system within the city centre, with lines in the works and the system continuously being expanded. Then there's the 高铁 (high speed rail train) which goes above 300km/h - globally it is the busiest operating system at over 19,000km, with destinations to the borders of China. Despite the train stations being quite a nightmare to be at (attribution to the passengers, not the service), the organization of the high traffic flow of passengers operates like clockwork. With the quality of transportation as the backbone of every country, China and her cities are definitely developing at a remarkable rate, made possible by the resources and human capital they have.


Closing note

China is not without fault; I went with low expectations, a bagful of paranoia, and complete mental preparation for pushy service staff, dodgy cab drivers, queue-cutting aunties, spit, smoke and haze, and of course, eye-popping toilets. The cities have exciting infrastructure development, and are enthusiastically improving how civilized the people are. Loudspeakers in metro stations call for passengers to disembark before boarding, and not to rush on escalators... on replay. Officials with red sashes order people to follow 'rules of civilization', and signs are pasted everywhere to remind people not to engage in acts of discarding bodily waste anywhere. It is a little jarring, but it could just work.

A people of 5000 years of civilization, a force to be reckoned with.



As a closing note, take a look at this New York Times video:




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I share interesting episodes in life revolving around food, lifestyle, travel and inspirational ideas. If you would like to stay in touch, follow me on my Instagram on @amie.hu and Facebook page!

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