There are more questions than answers.…

I’m writ­ing this from the 19th floor of a river­side hotel in Guangzhou but may not get to read it for a while as my blog seems to be blocked.

That said, it seems to be about the only site to date that I can’t access, either here or in pub­lic cafes. Even in the McDon­alds across the road, the kids munched their Big Macs whilst surf­ing, gratis, on the bank of com­put­ers pro­vid­ed. And the local chan­nels seemed to cov­er the Paris flame fra­cas in some detail.

Tonight I watched a movie, well, a bit of it, which had Snoop Dog dubbed into gut­tur­al Kore­an. It was fun­ny. Now anoth­er chan­nel is offer­ing an indepth, quite hor­ri­fy­ing, doc­u­men­tary on gang vio­lence in US pris­ons – the sort of thing we get point­ed back at Chi­na. That was bleak.

Ear­li­er we’d returned to a large restau­rant along the Pearl Riv­er, want­i­ng to expe­ri­ence again the chilli chick­en and such we’d had the night before. These things had not only dis­ap­peared from the print­ed menu, but the staff vehe­ment­ly denied that any such menu had ever exist­ed.

We have proof it did:

menu

I don’t know, quite what to make of this coun­try yet, I doubt I will from the tiny cor­ner (albeit a city with some twelve mil­lion) I’m in for a week or so, but it cer­tain­ly adds more ques­tions than answers.

Yes­ter­day we went a few Metro stops south we wan­dered through fab­ric ware­hous­es that went for kilo­me­tre after kilo­me­tre. My friend, who is half Chi­nese, told me not to talk to the Bud­dhist monks offer­ing to read ones for­tune as they can steal your good luck if they find it.

I then spent an hour or so in the mag­nif­i­cent Sun Yat Sen Memo­r­i­al, where the Japan­ese sur­ren­dered in 1945 and I stood on the plinth that Mao stood on in 1966 appar­ent­ly, and gave a speech on the eve of the cul­tur­al rev­o­lu­tion. And then I talked for an hour with a young man, who, in absolute­ly per­fect Eng­lish, talked of Chi­na past and present, of the way the world per­ceives the coun­try and the way it per­ceives itself. He was remark­ably frank, far more than we are led to be believed is allowed in this coun­try. And when I asked about that he said he was sur­prised that any­one could ques­tion the debate at every lev­el. We Chi­nese like to talk a lot said he. We talk and argue about every­thing, we are not a com­pli­ant peo­ple.

We are also a peo­ple who exist­ed as a soci­ety for a thou­sand years before the West and will be here for thou­sand years after the decline of the West. We don’t under­stand why the West thinks that it has a right to tell us that we need to be like it, and yet for the hun­dred years before the rev­o­lu­tion the West caused great pain and dam­age to us. It was Mao that took us from that place to where we are now as one of the world’s great nations. That jour­ney was not with­out pain but was nec­es­sary.

I wasn’t in a mood to argue with the odd con­tra­dic­tion in all that.

sunyatsen

Lat­er I walked into a park where large groups of old folk were sit­ting around stri­dent­ly dis­cussing and argu­ing about some­thing, whilst oth­ers played chess.

Maybe those who have fall­en through the cracks here have been moved on in some unspeak­able way – or maybe not. I don’t know. Or maybe the rev­o­lu­tion sim­ply has found a way to take care of these peo­ple. I’m sim­ply not see­ing the lev­el of urban mis­ery of Man­hat­tan or Kings Cross, and I’m tak­ing trains to ran­dom sta­tions and sim­ply walk­ing.

I find myself find­ing more ques­tions than answers here and per­haps I’m just see­ing a small cor­ner of Chi­na that is out of step and unrep­re­sen­ta­tive of the rest of the nation but I’m scratch­ing my head.

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