China’s an incredibly intriguing country, to the point where I’ve spent more time here than the nearby country whose language I spent an incredible ten years learning; Japan. Its development, politics, bureaucracy, history and of course food fascinate me. I’m not done with China, not even close.
China’s such a massive country with so many different cultures that I was flirting with the idea of putting forward a few pics and claiming them representative of different regions. But, for the sake of consistency, I pursued a more nationalist course.
So, I took a step back. What is my major, lasting impression of China?
Above all, what’s struck me most in China is its pace of development. Everywhere you look, skyscrapers seem to be growing even to the naked eye, new metro lines are opened up monthly and construction sites block off every second street.
This photo was taken on Tianfu Square, in my first couple of hours in Chengdu. As the city was inland and close to Tibet, I expected the city’s size to be rather modest in comparison to the mega cities of the east coast. I was wrong; almost 13 million people call Chengdu home, which means the city’s currently seeing a similar construction boom to Shanghai and Beijing.
Tianfu Square is in the heart of Chengdu, and is the main transfer station of its brand-spanking new metro system which had opened only two months before my visit. So, up I popped on Tianfu Square, fresh off the metro and keen to explore the inner city. I had one problem, though. All of the underground exits off the square (Chinese squares are completely surrounded by traffic) were closed. Men in hard hats were everywhere, doing their thing, as I desperately searched for a way off the square which didn’t include me being roadkill or catching another metro.
As I searched, I came across the scenario depicted above. Here, one man worked, whilst two men in uniform simply watched. I came across this scene many times in China. It was as if jobs were being created just to meet the demand of employment; for example, bags are scanned at every metro station in the country, with all scanners manned with a handful of staff. Sightseeing, you’d always buy your attraction ticket from one person, only to walk three paces and have it ripped by another.
Similarly, people take tremendous pride in wearing uniforms, and every second person seems to be dressed in one, from armed guards to shopping centre cleaners. The uniforms aren’t jeans, a polo and a cap, either – they’re expensive-looking and immaculate.
Everywhere you go in China you will see scenes like this, or elements of this scene. You’ll see construction sites, ugly development, smoggy skies, and gainfully employed people appearing to not do much at all.
And, just like in this shot, you’ll see signs of Westernisation, or familiarity – here in the form of McDonald’s – never right in front of you, but always there, off in the distance.