Saturday, February 06, 2010

visit to Shanghai and Changxing

Shanghai: the temperature is only 7 degrees but does not feel too cold as there is hardly any breeze

We landed, were greeted, whisked through customs, and escorted to a small 11-seater bus, two side-by-side, with an aisle down the middle, each seat with a foldaway tables, except for the front seat which has a spacious fixed desk in front of it to signal the importance of the Leader

The smooth and swift drive to Chongxing takes about 2 hrs though we are fogged out throughout - maximum visibility about 400yds, but most of the time more like 150yds

Our translator is from another province, with the first foreign language French, but quite competent English

In the translator's generation there is the beginning of a move now away from the larger cities to smaller cities, on the basis of better quality of life in the smaller cities, but I wonder whether the rwality in China is not rather that everyone has to work equally hard in every part of the country

In any case, I am interested to learn that the translator orders clothes on the internet and gets them 2 or 3 days later; and that, according to the translator, one should be able to get delivery evem in the remotest parts of China in 4 days: the delivery cost is about 6 Yuan in this part of the world, and about 10 Yuan for the remotest parts

Apparently, two months ago a drunken driving rule was introduced throughout the country - penalty 2 weeks jail - but perhaps the rich may still find that money facilitates a way out?

On arriving in Chongxing, we are taken to a huge hotel of the sort that one might have in Delhi or Agra: it is almost empty

the Tea Tribute Tea House from the 8th century, restored to its former glory recently, has to be specially opened for our small delegation - the advantage of being official guests!

Why is everything so deserted? Partly because this is winter: most Chinese and most foreigners prefer Chongxing between Spring and Autumn. And yes, they do get plenty of national and foreign visitors apparently. The newly built Exhibition Cente is very appropriate both for its scale and for its technical wizardry in view of the purpose for which it is designed: impressing foreigners so as to attract investment as well as impressing the best-qualified Chinese so as to attract them here as workers. The descriptive plaques here are in Mandarin, though the Tea House has everything in English as well

I am interested that in the hotel's welcome fruit basked there is a rather outsize (from the Indian point of view) version of a wild fruit that we call "Baer" in Hindi; this Chinese version may be cultivated?

On the tour of the Exhibition Centre, there is more than one reference to a "golden spike" which, I discover, refers to "the only standard of global stratigraphic division and correlation in in chronostratigraphic research". It is not golden, and it is not a spike in the normal sense of that word....

Changxing is still a relatively sleepy little town becuase most of the land around was occupied by the army. For some reason the army appears to have relinquished this land and moved elsewhere, when leases were taken by unknown (to our colleagues) parties, who developed the land in cooperation with the government which built the school, hospital, administrative centre, roads and high-speed railway (the last to be completed end-2010). The privately-developed houses, buildings and flats are available for sale to private individuals or western companies (though land itself cannot be sold in most or all of China). How much of these developments in China have actually been sold or rented cannot be discovered so far with any degree of reliability.

This applies also to the highly-impressive area of Pudong in Shanghai, which continues to become even more impressive each year. Though rumour has it that the buildings here are sinking because the land is marshy, that rumour is also impossible to establish or refute. Perhaps, to play safe, anyone who is interested in seeing this modern wonder should haste here in case it becomes like Venice. We don't get much time to be tourists, but the Bund is certainly a most interesting viewing platform to look on to Pudong. However, we do have time to look at one of the more fashionable bars and one of the most impressive restaurants, and I can assure my readers that Shanghai is as "cosmopolitan" (or "decadent", depending on one's point of view) in terms of culture, design and lifestyle

The city bustles away, very much on the make, with a population that apparently tops 20 million. In spite of that, traffic moves impressively swiftly on all the new roads that have been built.

There seems to be some competition between Shanghai and Beijing, in the same way as there is between Oxford and Cambridge, or between New York and Washington DC: when the 2008 Olympics were held in Beijing, there was no reference to them in Shanghai; and there is no reference in Beijing to the 2010 World Expo being held in Shanghai!

We visit one university, which is most impressive for its size and facilities. The city as a whole appears to be doing its best to maintain green spaces inside the city (much better than the smaller Swiss towns seem to be doing on that matter!).

Fascinating mixture of architectural styles, from some (too few!) traditional buildings, through the lovely the French-style colony called the French Concession, and early 20th century buildings (e.g. the neoclassical HSBC Building and the art deco Sassoon House) to the more eccentric modern buildings.

Too short a visit, but it is always most interesting to return to a city that has grown and grown since the 90s, and seems to be continuing to grow apace inspite of the current crisis. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Andi and Sheba Eicher said...

Thanks for taking us along on the trip. nothing like a set of eyes on the ground - and a mind awake to be able to tease truth out of the fog.

Blessings from the Thane Eichers!