Real China

On the way home from the today’s conference, which was held on the new, empty, isolated multi-university mega-campus known as University City, we stopped in Xiao Zhou village, an ancient village which houses an artists colony in addition to loads of working folks. It was great and I plan to take Jason next week – especially since I didn’t have the camera. Narrow streets too small for even a wheelbarrow, ancient houses, a Ming-era water well still in use, art galleries, etc. It was so interesting to experience the place and know that it might very well be gone in 5 years – some parts of the village/neighborhood have already been slated for demolition to make way for modern “development.”

The trip to Xiao Zhou contrasted sharply with my Friday morning trip to the modern, sterile, anywhere world city nature of Guangzhou’s Zhujiang New City. After my dentist appointment at the Western medical clinic, I sat reading in Starbucks and tried the new frappuccino – green tea and black sesame. For what I paid for the frappuccino I could eat lunch on campus for 10 days.

I generally look upon the New Cities and Mega-Universities of the world with a bit of disadain, favoring traditional neighborhoods and areas inhabited by those I conceive of as “real people” i.e. those with less money, less education, and long-standing family roots in the area. Watching the ancient houses of Xiao Zhou give way to the increasingly modern streets and high rises of the city center on the ride home, however, I realized that my bias in favor of the fading past is unfair, denying the reality of China as a developing country that encompasses both the new cities and the old villages. To dismiss the new China in favor of a singular imagined “real China” is something akin to what Sarah Palin does when she celebrates small towns as “real America” inhabited by “real Americans.” Really, it’s all China.

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1 Response to Real China

  1. Tina Scharback says:

    Andrea, your thought about denying that China is a developing country caused me to reflect on my 25 year involvement in the Ixcan region of Guatemala. The first trip I made in 1988 with my daughter was quite an eye opener. The last leg of travel to get to our partner village of Santa Maria Tzeja was a 3 hour walk in the jungle. That’s how isolated it was. So you can imagine that over 15 years later when I saw the first TV in a village hut, my reaction was one of sadness. That my wanting to protect them somehow from the evils of television was misguided.
    I love your blog.

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