Friday, June 17, 2011

China!


Not a standard topic for Grid Knowledge, but I did go for a symposium on creating positive change, so I'm making the leap that anyone interested in emerging trends will be fascinated by the sites, smells, sounds and solutions now seen in the world's new super-power.

Amazing, astounding, breath-taking. A new China. It was an enchanting trip, better told with 100 pictures than 1,000 words so here's my Picassa sets semi-sorted and labelled:


Now the words, for there are so many stories and so much learned:
At Sias International University (site of the WAFW symposium), I saw college students studying from 6am til 11pm. At Xi'an, I saw a city weaving it's place as ancient city with a new focus on smart industry.

In Beijing, I saw a city reinventing itself overnight. Light rail anywhere you might want to go, installed in a few short years. (In Phoenix, we fight for years to run one short line and still quibble over the value of public transportation in a West owned by the wealthiest drivers.) Beijing was Ming's Tomb and the Forbidden City; the Summer Palace and lessons from Dr. Tea. It was the crazy, all-night "walking street" of food and trinkets and treasures. It was elegant meals and live centipedes eaten on a stick. It was breath-taking.

In Shanghai, oh the sites and sounds and smells and markets and gardens. They say Beijing is China's DC and Shanghai is the mainland's New York City. I suppose that's right. It was exciting from early morning till I couldn't keep my eyes open at night. It was Old Town Shanghai and endless skyscrapers; the public gardens and the crowded, colorful markets; it was high culture and all-night massage shops. It was a shopper's dream, and although I am NOT a shopper, I couldn't resist visiting the beautiful pearl and silk markets and the not-legal designer back alley stores. I loved it all, spent too much, ate almost everything (rank, "stinky tofu", yes; live centipedes on sticks...no). It was my favorite city because I was there with my friend Elena Zee, where she was raised and her family showed me more kindness than I deserved. Plus, I got my colleague and symposium travel partner/pal, Kathy Puckett, to come with me - so even the travel from Beijing (including missed connections and 24-hr layovers) was a lifetime memory of fun.

I can't begin to describe how little I understood what Fareed Zakaria speaks of when he writes about "Post American World 2.0" until I saw China with my own eyes. There, children in kindergarten are learning English. The government is moving to create a strong, modern infrastructure. The people have a hope, energy and enthusiasm about the future that the USA seems to have surrendered to bickering and internal discord. There is excitement in the streets and people do their best or "eat bitter" without complaint, working to create something new.
I want that for my people as well. I want that for students at ASU. I want that love of the future to exist in me.

Not that it was all good. Many believe it's moving too fast, and there are consequences to ignoring problems with environment, growth, relocation, and the taste of capitalism becoming a hunger incompatible with a firm, Communist government. There's also Tibet, Mongolia and the Western China regions beginning to raise up and ask for recognition of identity. We don't hear much about this, and the Chinese hear less, but it's happening. Because the 21st Century is a new time and a new story for China.

It went by too fast: I saw so much, learned so much, have already forgotten too much. I have to go back, and travel that massive landscape more slowly. Till then, my memories are recorded in piles of digital shapes and colors up at Picassa. They're only a poor simulcra of my experiences over 17 days, 5 cities...but it's a start.

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