Part Two: An emerging giant
A country of approximately 1.3 billion people is not easy to manage by any means, and the senior management of China (i.e. the government) is doing a great job, and has done so in the past twenty-eight or so years since the reforms were embarked upon. If someone went to China three decades ago, they would have seen more or less everyone wearing the same navy blue Mao suit and cap, along with lots of bicycles on the roads, little or no international media converge, low salaries, not many options for food in shops, and not many foreign businesses or shops (except tourists!).
Remarkably it’s a totally different story today as you can buy almost anything that you would be able to get back in Western societies such as America or Europe. Chairman Mao would have been shocked, but equally proud if he saw the China that we have the privilege to see today. Bicycles and Mao suits are yesterday’s products, seen only in museums, universities or rural areas!
Instead, over 1,300 Boeing or Airbus planes proudly grace the Chinese skies; there are so many cars on the streets that traffic jams are becoming the norm in most cities and most middle-class youngsters are donning the latest designer wear (FCUK, Gucci, Armani etc.)! In a nutshell, China is the place to be for the future. Someone told me once that there are more millionaires in China than anywhere else in the world (maybe except Russia), and I suspect he was referring to millionaires in Chinese RMB, but even then that’s a lot of money. Judging from what can be seen and read in the larger cities, his statement is believable.
I have a special affection for Guangzhou and Beijing; both these cities have something in common: a dusty and polluted atmosphere which is hard to escape from, thanks to the factories in the respective areas (although this will no doubt change a little during the Olympics!), and both of them are very romantic places to be in, and even more beautiful in reality! Beijing is just the most amazing place on earth, and it’s even more amazing that a city which is so attached to history and culture is able to hold something as grand, modern and extravagant as the Olympic Games. When you first go to Guangzhou, the humidity will hit you along with the smog that’s lurking for the majority of the year. Indeed the heavy traffic can swallow you up quite easily, swirling around the roads in robotic action!
Fear not, as not many vehicles tend to collide, although it’s hard to believe that every vehicle can end up missing each other. Being in a country with the largest population in the world, there is no escape from traffic. In the big cities, the roads are at least four lanes each way, but they are equally likely to be congested almost all day, and it’s worse during the peak hours. But the thing that attracts me to Beijing and Guangzhou more than anything is that when you are there, it does feel like the real China – unlike the futuristic modern cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen, the former two cities seem to have a good balance of history and modernism in step with each other.
Part One: Overview
Part Three: Feast for the eyes… and the stomach!
Books by the author
Newcomer’s Handbook Country Guide: China: Including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen (First Books, USA, Summer 2008)
China: Business Travellers Handbook (Stacey International, UK, October 2008)
Buy Navjot Singh’s books!
Newcomer’s Handbook Country Guide: China
Including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen
Paperback, 292 pages
2008, First Books
Gorilla Guides: The Business Traveller’s Handbook to China
Paperback, 332 pages
2009, Gorilla Guides