June 21, 2013

I got this far in my head while riding to the airport

The rising sun was an orange ball low in the sickly yellow polluted sky. The distant trees bordering the highway were obscured by the haze in the warm early-morning light.  The taxi driver ignored me as he turned up the radio.  It was OK, he did not speak English, I not a word of Mandarin, or any dialect of Chinese for that matter. I was the quintessential ugly American dropping my dollars in the most modern of Third World Countries.

China, where BMW's and Audi's and big American designed SUVs  crowd smooth modern highways.  China, where sky scrapers touch the sky. Where construction cranes fill the air in every city. Where factories provide the world with goods. China, where the water is unsafe to drink. Where factories paint the Beijing sky yellow with chemicals. China where farmers in remote areas use oxen in the rice paddies.  Where workers toil for a few dollars a day. Where corruption is the rule. China, where whole shopping centers are dedicated to selling counterfeit merchandise. China, where having more than one child means fines, and a loss of your job or worse.

Driving on a Sunday afternoon along a modern 6 lane highway, my friend and colleague, a Chinese national and member of The Party, asked a hard question. "Chinese culture is thousands of years old", he said. "America is but a few hundred years old.  How is it you have so much and we have so little?"

How do you explain to a person whose culture is 4,000 years of oppression about freedom?

Westerners have tried to solve the enigma of China since Marco Polo. I won't begin to try based on a mere glimpse of the country.

How about a few pictures?

 
Rainy, foggy skyline of 'New Shanghai" from the Bund

Smiling Buddha at the Temple complex near Hangzhou

On the Great Wall near Beijing

5 comments:

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I'm so tired of Asians talking about their millenia-old civilizations and treating us like we're Johnny-come-latelies because our country is only 237 years old.

Western Civilization is of equal or greater antiquity, and by nearly any measure has contributed more to the uplift, spirit, and freedom of mankind than any other.

So fuck 'em.

Joe said...

Your comment reminded me of this:

http://youtu.be/Yz4kOBKhYRs

I thought of that commedy bit every time picked up a pair of sticks to eat my meal.

Per your comment -- I explained to my friend that America should be considered as part of the western or European culture and is much older than he says. I also pointed out that America had the advantage of borrowing from many cultures, including Chinese.

Cappy said...

Cause we looked on their paper during the math test.

Ed Bonderenka said...

Tell him not to worry.
At the rate they're "transferring" technology and we're going down the "road to serfdom" they'll have everything we have soon.
In the hands of the elite.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

In our defense, the Chinese have a big problem that they are just starting to recognize.

If they break us financially, they have no market for their cheap products.

If we catch a cold, they get the flu.

Sucks to be them.

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