As youngsters we heard, "If you drill straight down through the Earth you would come out in China." That comprised just about the sum total of our knowledge of China. Perhaps the improvement in knowledge since then has been slight.
We all know of our foreign aid program for China. Not a Congressional act, but enormous amounts of U.S. dollars to China, sent through the conduit of Walmart.
At least some of the rise of the middle class in China can be attributed to our purchases of low-cost goods, although there are other reasons for the remarkable growth of their economy in the past three decades.
One American tourist remarked recently that what China has achieved in 20 years took the U.S. a 100 years to accomplish. He was referring to the upscale, modernist look of Shanghai with its 24 million people: four times larger than NY City.
There are 3000 buildings in Shanghai that are
higher than 30 stories,
China does indeed have cars...lots of cars. There are at least 20 Chinese companies that manufacture autos, and many of the World’s auto builders also make or assemble cars in China: companies such as General Motors, Chrysler, Audi, Volvo, Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan, and others. Last year (2013) more cars were purchased in China than were purchased in the U.S. You can see the manifestation of that buying spree in the traffic.
We often use the term ‘unbelievable’ in our
The Shanghai World Financial Tower
tops out at 121 stories.
In the same way that you and I will walk through a crowded shopping mall or airport, sort of making way for other people, giving a bit here, or taking a quick step forward to avoid colliding there, so goes the flow of auto traffic in China. But it’s a sphincter tightening experience for us to engage in or to watch as an American driver.
In one upscale mall an ordinary living room
chair might cost $6000.
In one upscale mall there were items that most Americans couldn’t afford to purchase. An ordinary living room chair, for example, might cost $6000. The upscale has gone very upscale in some sectors of China and such retail outlets seem to be thriving there.
I had expected China to be sort of a dirty place
with littered streets. Not true.
In the northeast part of China we traveled to the Heilongjiang Province, a major agricultural region. We were almost to the border of Russian Siberia. Driving through this area reminds one of traveling in Iowa, with vast reaches of corn fields and soybean fields.
Near the border of Russian Siberia are vast reaches
of corn fields and soybean fields. Driving through
this area reminds one of traveling in Iowa,
There are virtually no fat people in China. I suppose we always attributed that to the notion of many poor people in China. But there is a distinctly affluent class now, and they remain unfattened, so to speak. There seems to be an abundance of food today, but the the diet is different than we are accustomed to.
A Chinese restaurant has a large lazy susan in the
center and as many as 20 dishes, most will
be vegetarian, or rice and tofu.
Everywhere there are tourists by the hundreds. They are Chinese tourists: not so many are foreigners. The Chinese in great numbers are visiting all the monuments and historic places in China today. On the Great Wall (which the Chinese call the Long Wall) people are everywhere...Chinese tourists.
The Great Wall is about 4000 miles long, stretching from the Yellow Sea, or the East China Sea, to the western barrens where the Wall is now almost unnoticeable, almost indistinguishable in the landscape. In those far reaches of China the Wall is now only a few feet high in some places, it’s stones and brick having been scavenged for other building projects.
The Great Wall (which the Chinese call the Long Wall)
people are everywhere...Chinese tourists.
You may have heard that the Great Wall is the only man-made object visible from the Moon. Not true. It’s not as wide as a four lane highway and there are many other man-made structures that are larger.
China is now the second largest economy and still expanding. It’s rate of growth is slowing now to single digit percentages rather than the double digit rate it has sustained for two decades. It is still a Country worth watching, and a Country worth knowing. A fascinating People with a vibrancy, hunger and ambition to make things happen.
Dale Johnson is represented by Windoes Travelogues.