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Expatriate ramblings

Reflections 1

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Having been here in China on and off for four of the past six years, I thought it might be of interest to share some of my perspectives on this rapidly emerging economy, whose long-term impact is yet to be really felt by the world at large.

The first thing that sinks in is the marked difference in scale: the density of everything is greater - not just the number of people, but the number of buildings, the size of them, the volume of stock on supermarket shelves - I could go on and on.

The other major factor to take on board is that the rate of change is a phenomenon in itself. I first came to China in June 2001 and each time I came back, the assumptions I had made had to be adjusted upwards. In fact, nowadays the strongest presumption is that things will be markedly different from what I last experienced.

I am living on the south eastern seaboard, a very strongly developing area of China. I dug out some images to compare what has happened to the landscape outside my bedroom window in the past 24 months.

The top picture shows the view from our balcony a month ago. Contrasting with this is the similar vista on 22 August 2005 - little over 2 years earlier. Apart from the pollution, the former informal market gardens that our view consisted of in Feb 2005, had not only developed into an estate of apartments, but roads had been added within the past 5 months not to mention the other new contructions that have appeared within that period. Most of these buildings are vacant, by the way, as it seems the city awaits the migration of all those millions of rural residents who will make there way into town for 'a better life'.

But another important factor to take into account is the range of stages of development that exists in China. I have visited parts of China that have yet to develop to anywhere near the extent that the world generally sees as China's current level of development - and most of the 1.3 billion are currently living in that less-developed state!

In these places, although the landscape appears similar to more developed environs, the attitudes of the populous are still heavily influenced by the politics of 20 years ago. What happens when these sectors of society also emerge will really shape the future, not only of China, but of the rest of the world.
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Updated 4th-January-2008 at 05:48 PM by Gurgler (to add attachments)




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