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:
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.
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.