Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Breast feeding seats on public buses in Zhengzhou [Xinhua/New Paper Singapore] #RisingChina #Motherhood

Better days ahead…

– – –

Source – The New Paper Singapore, published August 17, 2013

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Education, Health, Infrastructure, Lifestyle, Modernisation, Photo Story, The Chinese Identity

Quit CCP Service Centre, Box Hill, Melbourne [Photo Story] #RisingChina #Resistance

At a Chinese-majority suburban town east of Melbourne city…

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Ideology, Influence, Mapping Feelings, Photo Story, Social

CPC member responsible area 4000m above sea level [Photo] #RisingChina

CPC member responsible area 4000m above sea level @ Snow Jade Dragon Mountain in Yunnan.

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Influence, Photo Story, Politics, The Chinese Identity, Uncategorized

White Alaskan Malamute. Streets of Chongqing. #China #Pets

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Filed under: Photo Story, Social, The Chinese Identity

Exploring China’s interior: Southwest 西南 Day 6: Chengdu, Sichuan Province

Exploring China’s interior: Southwest 西南
// Day 6: Chengdu 成都, capital of Sichuan Province

Chengdu 天府之国, capital of Sichuan province has been on the agenda for the longest time. It has retained its original city name since its founding more than two millennia ago in 311BC, the same cannot be said of many other Chinese cities. A fan of the Three Kingdoms narrative – it was great being able to investigate the historicity of such seminal characters in the Chinese psyche – such as Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang. Of course, being in this part of China during Sino-Japanese tension was also most interesting. Today it is one of China’s most liveable cities, famous for its giant pandas and is home to more than 14 million. Often tremendously foggy, there are only a few times a year locals actually get to fully embrace the sun. An inland city with increasing economic importance to China’s spread of growth to its interior and periphery, it is now becoming a first choice stop if one wishes to succeed in China’s west.

#1

#1 Tianfu Square: At the square facing the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum with Mao statue. A dynamic gathering place, it is a must visit if one ever visits Chengdu.

#2

#2 The square itself sees a sunken metro hub with subterranean shopping options. Once the site of the imperial palace torn down during the cultural revolution. For a city with so much history, it is thought provoking how little of the legacies of past – often so richly embedded in Chinese texts are physically left.

#3

#3 Starbucks has made significant headway into the Chinese psyche of late along the wave of MacDonaldization >;30RMB for a standard coffee there is suggestive. A typical canned drink such as the herbal tea 加多宝 costs 10 times less in the provision shops

#4

#4 The other side of China’s rise. Coca Cola versus wandering spirit.

#3

#5 Opulent, symbolic and contentious. According to a local contact, this complex, now called the Tianfu International Financial Centre seriously irked Wen Jiabao during his visit to Chengdu after the devastating Sichuan earthquakes of 2008. The timing could not have been worse. Chengdu municipal officials moving into luxurious new city government offices at the 1.2b Yuan complex with while others struggled to survive drew severe public criticism. During my visit, entry was not encouraged. Word was given that officials would sell the buildings and use the money for earthquake reconstruction, however one office block of the five ‘Beijing bird’s nest’ lookalikes is still being used.

#6

#6 Chengdu East Train Station – obviously built to handle large crowds – 68 hectares large in total with 14 platforms and 26 tracks.

#7

#7 New Century Global Center. Touted to be the largest business platform in West China, it is also the world’s largest single structure. Measuring 500m across and 400m wide with 1.7 million square metres of floor space, the marine-themed center features a 500m long artificial beach inside with a 150m-long LED screen and an artificial sun for often foggy Chengdu – which is actually more than a thousand kilometres from any coast. Slated for turnkey business dealings there are hotels, offices, retail outlets, arts centres and concert venues inside. Claimed to be able to fit 20 Sydney Opera Houses, it was so large my peripheral vision could not capture it all at once, not lest the tablet computer’s built-in camera.

#8

#8 Not yet open for business, I was able to get a glimpse of this scale model by visiting the retail and office space sales centre.

#9

#9 Steaming ahead to the age of convenience? Pre-packed herbal soup for the time-strapped.

#10

#10 The staggering price of imported infant milk formulas was raised as a concern by a few local friends at the parenting phase of their lives.

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Photo Story

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南 Day 5: Yuanyang, Yunnan province

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南
// Day 5: Yuanyang county 元阳县,
Honghe Hani and Yi Minority Autonomous Prefecture 红河哈尼族彝族自治州, Yunnan province

Done with Dali, it was a six-hour long sleeper bus journey from Dali’s Changshan Erhai back to Kunming. Due to the nature of the region’s terrain, the train ride would have taken far longer. I whined to myself as the bus did not offer the most comfortable of rides, but it all changed as it meant it afforded me plenty of time to chat with a Hani-minority woman seated next to me.

She offered me all manner of wisdom, despite profuse apologies via her self-perception that she was uncultured, compared to an overseas-born Chinese. On the way to Kunming to see her daughter striking it out in the big city (a luxury she gets twice a year at most), she left an indelible impression. Alas, when we reached our destination, the flurry of activity (anyone who has travelled to China would know how many rush to wait and wait to rush as if it were an Olympic event) prevented me from taking a photo of/with her. We talked about all manner of things, from the Sino-Japanese dispute, the South China Sea, from growth opportunities and healthcare, the list was long – above all it was a comment she made about her daughter that would stick forever. She said, when a girl gets older she actually becomes younger and more vulnerable. I digress, here’s a summary of that first-hand account that might be useful for readers:

#1

#1 One of the sleeper buses one can take to commute from Dali to Kunming

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Culture, Photo Story

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南 Day 4: Dali 大理, Yunnan province

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南
// Day 4: Dali 大理市 county-level city
Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture 大理白族自治州, Yunnan province

Dali is an ancient capital where its old city walls still stand. Not UNESCO protected like Lijiang, it was the seat of power for the Bai kingdom Nanzhao which thrived during the eight and ninth centuries. Later, the Kingdom of Dali regined from 937-1253AD. Dali was formerly a significantly Muslim part of South China.

#1

#1 To get to Dali from Lijiang, this was the recommended approach. Winding through mountain passes and snaking over gorges, the journey looking out of the  train window was picturesque as infrastructure-crazy Yunnan impressed yet again. The tremendous effort to connect through the extremely rugged hills and mountains of central Yunnan is awe-inspiring. No High-Speed Rail here yet, however. Expect to share cabin space socialist style if you choose the sleeper coach- everyone had to respectfully share a highly limited space. The alleyways are probably just 60cm wide.

#2

#2 34RMB for the 2 hour journey. It was most interesting sharing the space and interacting with all manner of domestic traveler  from the rural folk heading to meet extended family or for business, to intrepid young backpackers (who I understand love coming here for a great big hike of self-discovery – perhaps somewhat the Chinese equivalence of ‘Into the Wild‘). I thought it was great that second-chance tickets on board were always being offered by the inspectors before they began their official inspections. I found out this was a humane measure to help out the neediest. On board throughout the journey, there were peddlers selling all manner of wares from mobile chargers to laser lit yoyos, towels, drinks and the like in the 60cm wide alleyway.

#3

#3 Chongsheng Temple and Three Pagodas 崇圣寺三塔. They date back to the time of the Nanzhao kingdom and Dali Kingdom – reminders that the Han stock was not always dominant.

#4

#4 Reflective pond 聚影池 that was popular amongst tourists here as the three pagodas (that formed a symmetrical triangle) became six with this angle. Within half an hour of observation, there was a non-stop flow of domestic tourists, bandying about all sizes and types of compact digital to SLR cameras. They were largely led around by Bai minority tour guides (see example with prominent headdress near the bottom-centre of this photo)

#5

#5 Han Chinese child with mum preppring her  for a photo taken by local Bai minority photography. I was parked here for quite a while attempting to do a timelapse video of the pagodas (out of picture), and it was heartening that visitors who came were not only from the Han majority.

#6

#6 The culture of Buddhist fish release exists to this very day in China.

#7

#7 The other side of China’s rise. Local womenfolk peddling fruits waiting outside the entrance and exits. Thing is, the fruits they sell aren’t local. I hear their supply comes from the border – further south in Thailand and Vietnam. It is also here in Dali where it becomes increasingly apparent that China’s stranglehold on its one-child policy of yesteryear is a myth, it hardly applied to rural folk, nor the minorities. The locals I spoke to around in their 50s mostly had two to three kids.

#8

#8 Local womenfolk washing locally grown vegetables in the canals nearby Erhai Lake 洱海, an alpine fault lake in literally translated as “Ear-shaped Sea”, due to its shape. It sits nearly 2,000m above sea level and is nearly as long as my country of birth – about 40km. Erhai is sandwiched between the Cangshan Mountains 苍山 to the West and Dali – the perfect settings in Chinese terms, for abundance and prosperity

#9

#9 八荣八耻 Eight virtues and shames on Dali’s old town walls. Hu Jintao’s Eight-Step Programme in action since 2006.  Translated – 
1. Love the country; do it no harm.
2. Serve the people; never betray them.
3. Follow science; discard ignorance.
4. Be diligent; not indolent.
5. Be united, help each other; make no gains at others’ expense.
6. Be honest and trustworthy; do not sacrifice ethics forgain.
7. Be disciplined and law-abiding; not partake in chaos and lawless.
8. Live plainly, work hard; do not inudlge in luxuries and pleasures.

#11

#10 Drug abuse used to be a huge problem this part of China due to its proximity to the borders of Myanmar for instance – a closer look this shop, located near Foreigners’ Street 洋人街 will reveal some relics of paraphernalia.

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Culture, Photo Story

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南 Day 3: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yulong Naxi Autonomous County, Lijiang, Yunnan province

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南
// Day 3: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain 玉龙雪山 (Yu Long Xue Shan)
Yulong Naxi Autonomous County 玉龙纳西族自治县, Lijiang, Yunnan province
by WanderingChina

This AAAAA-rated tourist destination found in a Naxi autonomous county would price even the most eager out of the game. But when I arrived, they were there by the busloads, 4WD-loads, the list went on – the snaking queues to take the shuttle buses up to the various peaks and attractions were intense. The mountain mastif is the southernmost glacier in the northern hemisphere and consists of thirteen peaks all higher than 4,000m. The highest point is Shanzhidou 扇子陡 that stands at 5,596m. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Culture, Photo Story

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南 Day 2: Lijiang, Yunnan province

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南
// Day 2: Lijiang 丽江 Prefecture-level city, Yunnan province
by WanderingChina

Old meets new: Next stop was Lijiang, a historically rich city that harks back to the ancient southern silk route. Located in the Northwestern part of Yunnan, more than 1.2 million reside here.

#1 Old meets new: Next stop is Lijiang, a historically rich city that harks back to the ancient southern silk route. Located in the northwestern part of Yunnan, more than 1.2 million reside here. The monolithic impression of Han Chinese dominance ends here. The Naxi tribe (totalling 300,000 in total across Yunnan and Sichuan) is rather dominant here. Architecturally, buildings in the old town, relics from the middle ages are largely made of brick and wood, featuring carved doors and brightly painted windows

The Old Town of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No motorised transport is allowed here. This is Sifangjie:, the heart of the old town which once served as the most important hub on the Ancient Tea Horse Road. Since the Ming Dynasty, merchants from the four corners of China and beyond have stayed here, bringing with them their own unique cultures. The street has been the center of cultural an economic exchanges in Lijiang for several hundred years.

#2 The Old Town of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No motorised transport is allowed here. This is Sifangjie:, the heart of the old town which once served as a vital hub on the Ancient Tea Horse Road. This street has been the confluence of cultural and economic exchanges in Lijiang since the Ming dynasty. Lijiang, incidentally is home to two of China’s 117 autonomous counties 自治县 that dot China’s landscape, perhaps a lesser known fact than the more famous five ‘chunks’ of autonomous regions 自治区.

Would a developed area be complete without the hyperreal consumer culture of MacDonald's?

#3 Would a developed area be complete without the hyperreal consumer culture of MacDonald’s? It is noteworthy that foreign visitors were a significant minority. My travels around China have revealed its immense domestic market (at solid state a 700 million strong domestic middle class is a market the world has never seen) – something outsiders are ignorant of, simply because 1. they have never stepped foot into China 2. they are informed by shepherding.

As a keen drummer I usually travel with a mini djembe in tow. Little did I expect that Lijiang would be a drummer's haven. The global village at its finest: Djembes made in Indonesia and Africa are a dime a dozen around these parts - passionately played with traditional hilltribe music burnt onto ceramic discs, I had a terrific time jamming with many shop owners.

#4 As a keen drummer I usually travel with a small djembe in tow. Little did I expect that Lijiang would be a drummer’s haven. The global village at its finest: Djembes made in Indonesia and Africa are a dime a dozen around these parts – passionately played along to traditional hilltribe music burnt onto ceramic discs. I had a terrific time jamming with many shop owners. It was heartening to see such a popular domestic Chinese market for minority sounds.

Local delights

#5 Local delights

The English police may be misdirected. Access to recycling is far more prominent and easy compared to Singapore back home.

#6 Good intentions: The English police may be misdirected. Towards #GreenChina. Access to recycling is far more prominent and easy compared to back home in Singapore.

The waters here are fed by the glacial runoffs of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain 玉龙雪山

#7 The waters here are fed by the glacial runoffs of the mountain massif Jade Dragon Snow Mountain 玉龙雪山. Like the many towns in the Swiss Alps that innovate around hydro power, Lijiang is no different.

View of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the expanse of the city from Wan Gu Lou 万古楼 atop Lion Hill 狮子山

#8 View of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the expanse of the city from Wan Gu Lou 万古楼 atop Lion Hill 狮子山

#9 Again, more drum mania. Lijiang Old Town  is famous for its live bands and pubs. This pub has its drummer seated rather precariously. I would think twice about jamming here too vigorously!

#9 Again, more drum mania. Lijiang Old Town is famous for its live bands and pubs. This pub has its drummer seated rather precariously. I would think twice about jamming here too vigorously!

Picture postcard view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from Black Dragon Pool 黑龙潭.
#10 Picture postcard view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from Black Dragon Pool 黑龙潭.

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Culture, Photo Story

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南 Day 1: Kunming, Yunnan province

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南
// Day 1: Kunming, Yunnan province
by WanderingChina

Featuring 10 photos a day, here is a first-hand journey into learning more about China’s peripheries and interior.

Pre-amble
Prejudices can have a habit of clouding perspective. It is unlikely great powers, be it the U.S. or China get to where they are today without significant struggle and effort. These photo stories of my travels around China as a ‘returning’ overseas-born Chinese sojourner are intended to dispel the myth of China as a monolithic entity. By closing the gaps between myth, misconception and first hand experience, perhaps these images will shed light on China’s struggle and ability to harness 1.3 billion narratives to become a collective force for forward motion.

Having explored most of the developed eastern coast, I was keen to see just how much work was being done to spread the benefits of China’s rise to its interior and peripheries. Xi’An, in China’s central north-west was as deep as I had travelled to before. Eager to learn more and experience China’s promise of equitable growth and armed with a tablet computer (disclaimer as I decided to travel ultra-light, without a purpose-built camera – the filters help mask the limitations of the 5megapixel camera without flash), I head to China’s southwest with the frontier province of Yunnan, Sichuan province and Chongqing municipality in my sights.

First stop is Yunnan’s capital – Kunming.

On board the China Eastern flight to Yunnan's Kunming Changshui Airport. As a student of Chinese public diplomacy and a keen musician, this was a heartening piece of news.

#1 On board the China Eastern flight to Yunnan’s Kunming Changshui Airport. As a student of Chinese public diplomacy and a keen musician, this was a heartening piece of news from the Global Times, as the subtext and semantics of language can often confuse.

A most humbling experience even Singapore's award winning airport cannot match. A free public phone that features internet access, stock market reports, weather reports to name a few. And yes it is free for everyone travelling, from the rural peasants to the nouveau rich to the foreign tourists.
#2 A most humbling experience even Singapore’s award winning airport cannot match. A free public phone that features internet access, stock market reports, weather reports to name a few. And yes it is free for everyone travelling, from the rural peasants to the nouveau rich to the foreign tourists.

One of many, many real estate ads that are plastered around Yunnan - a small indicator of the level of affluence for the people around these parts.

#3 One of many, many real estate ads that are plastered around Yunnan – just one indicator of the level of affluence for the people around these parts. Depending on how you interpret this –  More signs of affluence, aspiration or opulence? Not forgetting a generation ago, China had undergone massive growing pains with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution

So... My journey starts at Kunming in the frontier  Yunnan province (it shares borders with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmmar, 25 of the 56 official Chinese ethnicities can be found here).  Here's a view of the interior of the airport  facing east as the sun arises over the degraded mountain area, about 2,000m above sea level.  Only just opened in June this year, it features two runways and 66 gates.  Do check out its official website to catch a fuller glimpse of its grandeur - I am no architect but they finished building this airport (featuring very few straight lines...)  in just under three years. Its aim (this I found out talking to a local party member) is to become a gateway to Southeast and South Asia. It was quite a spectacle looking around the vast expanse of mountain range all around.

#4 So… My journey starts at Kunming in the frontier Yunnan province (it shares borders with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmmar, 25 of the 56 official Chinese ethnicities can be found here).
Here’s a view of the interior of the airport facing east as the sun arises over the degraded mountain area, about 2,000m above sea level.

View of the exterior of the airport.

#5 View of the exterior of the airport. Only just opened in June this year, it features two runways and 66 gates.
Do check out its official website to catch a fuller glimpse of its grandeur – I am no architect but they finished building this airport (featuring very few straight lines…) in just under three years. Its aim (this I found out talking to a local party member) is to become a gateway to Southeast and South Asia – an FTA with ASEAN now exists. It was quite a spectacle looking around the vast expanse of mountain range all around.

One might be hard pressed to believe Yunnan is one of China's poorest provinces. This is a view echoed by all the locals I spoke to. Here is a shot of the Zhong Ai archway first built arguably during the Yuan Dynasty. Kunming is capital of Yunnan province, and has a populaton of about 6.4 million.

#6 One might be hard pressed to believe Yunnan is one of China’s poorest provinces. This is a view echoed by all the locals I spoke to of the second-tier city. State policy to reduce the East-West income gap is apparent. Here is a shot of the Zhong Ai archway first built arguably during the Yuan Dynasty. Kunming is a prefecture-level city that serves as capital of Yunnan province, and has a populaton of about 6.4 million.

A wider shot of the Zhong Ai archway. Kunming has an important history of being the epicentre of China's southern silkroad back in antiquity. It wasn't always a piece of Han Chinese territory though, it was subjugated in 109BC. During the second Sino-Japanese war, much of China's wealthy and learned flooded here to build a bastion of finance and resources to fight back against the invading Japanese forces.

#7 A wider shot of the Zhong Ai archway. Kunming has an important history of being the epicentre of China’s southern silkroad back in antiquity. It wasn’t always a piece of Han Chinese territory though, it was subjugated in 109BC. During the second Sino-Japanese war, much of China’s wealthy and learned flooded here to build a bastion of finance and resources to resist the invading Japanese forces.

This is Cuihu Park, located in the northern part of Kunming's city.  Since 1985, seagulls from Siberia have been spending their winter months at the lake. In an amazing display of harmony, the locals and seagulls form a symbiotic relationship.

#8 This is Cuihu Park, located in the northern part of Kunming’s city. Since 1985, seagulls from Siberia have been spending their winter months at the lake. In a display of harmony, locals and seagulls form a symbiotic relationship. Nie Er, composer of China’s national anthem was born in Kunming and a statue of him celebrates his contribution here. He tragically passed on at the age of 23.

Ferris Wheel at Cuihui Lake

#9 Ferris Wheel at Cuihui Lake

Locals indulging in early afternoon Taichi at Cuihui lake park. Made a public park in 1910, the park, known as Green Lake park in English was first established during the 17th century.

#10 Locals indulging in early afternoon Taichi at Cuihui lake park. Made a public park in 1910, the park, known as Green Lake park in English was first established during the 17th century.

Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Culture, Photo Story

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