How to describe China other than to say that it is singularly
undescribable? It has too many faces--1.25 billion, boasts of
magnificent diversity, consists of thousands of contradictions.
At 3.7 million square miles, it is only slightly larger than the
United States and yet it is home to 52 indigenous minority
groups with radically different cultural and societal histories
and practices. It remains one of the last bulwarks of
communism and yet its economy is booming, personal
prosperity is more than a dream, color has returned from the
greys of Mao and pre-1989. Repression and suppression of
what happens internally and in the outside world continues and
yet most citizens express little concern with the government as
they stretch for money, living convenience, possessions, etc.
Dissent is persecuted and "subversives" continue to be jailed
and denied rights and opportunities to make a living. Activities
are restricted; living conditions are crowded and sub-standard
by Western standards; plumbing and toilet facilities don't exist
for people in many villages and yet up-to-date department
stores offer the same merchandise and variety as their
counterparts in the rest of the world; broadband and cell
phones proliferate; cities are beautifully lit in myriads of color
each evening; hustle and bustle is all around; what appears as
free enterprise abounds; people laugh, interact, move with a
sense of purpose and well-being.
IKEA, KFC, MacDonald's, Pizza Hut, Estee Lauder, Nike, Volkswagon, Mercedes-Benz, Valentino, Versace
Budweiser, luxury hotels, San Francisco Steakhouses, shopping malls, excellent airports share a land with
roaming water buffalo, yaks, sweatshops, sidewalk seamstresses, scents of incense, wares transported by
pedicarts, kitchens on apartment balconies, fly-infested meat stalls and frightening air pollution.
This evolving China suggests that Deng Xiaoping is to be
credited with being one of the great visionaries of the
twentieth century. With the massacre of Tinanamen Square
in 1989 and the potential for true revolution, President Deng,
a Communist hard-liner who marched with Mao and was his
hand-picked successor, conceived that the only way to save
communism and the legacy of the Great March involved
changing the economic conditions of China and the prosperity
of its citizens. He believed that if China entered the world of
the 1990's in this regard, the people would be mollified. On
this certainty, he risked his future, underwent periods of being
ostracized by party hard-liners and fought idealogical battles,
but, his vision prevailed and has become the cornerstone and
foundation of the massive changes which have occurred. In
2002, there is ample evidence that his vision and purpose
were on target. In the words of one of our guides, "We don't
really care what the government does as long as we have
money and can buy what we want." It appears that, at least
for the time being, dissidents will still be controlled, human
rights will be violated, the press will be restricted--all with
immunity from the dissatisfaction of its general populace.
|A culture almost as old as modern man.
A country which developed advanced science, art, societal structures, literature and
systematized government long before Europe's great civilizations, millenniums before the New
A land of revolution with a history of rule by the elite of the dynasties and later the Communist Party.
Landscapes of infinite beauty; cities with mind-boggling pollution.
Delicate arts of calligraphy and watercolors as well as the obtrusive propaganda banners of today.
Fragile, exquisite ancient architectural wonders and the monstrosities in Tiananmen Square.
Post 1989 new economy millionaires vs. incomes of $120 a month.
Emphasis on the â€œcollective goodâ€� but rampant materialism and self-absorption.
A country which perfected symmetry and beauty and then destroyed waterways and land by placing
functionality and expediency above preservation of nature.
A country which values education but restricts knowledge.
And much, much more.
The Beauty of China
Environmental Neglect in China
|Our twenty-one days in mystical China offered time to sample an infinitesimally small bit of its history,
diversity, richness and incredible discrepancies. Among these are:
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