Last Updated on 10 months by Piyush Jain
I visited China in May 2011, as a part of an annual global conference from the company I worked in. It was a 1-week trip, where three days we were in Shanghai, and the rest of the days, we were free to go to the place of our choice. My friends chose a nearby location from Shanghai, i.e., Huangshan (Yellow Mountain). Here are the few anecdotes which will give you a feel on how China is. My experience in China is complementary to my review of the book “The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State.”
- In our flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai, I got a middle seat, and I had 2 Chinese guys on the right and left. They appeared friendly and wanted to talk to me. I too reciprocated. One of them, who was a doctor, asked me a few questions (casually and with no mal-intent).
- In what language do you study in India? I said, we use English. He further asked if India does not have a native language? I said they do, but it is for getting global; we do so. He said we study all subjects in Mandarin. I said that you have only one language, on which he said, No, we too have hundreds of languages. This sort of conveyed that we should give priority to our culture and language.
- He asked me, what do you prefer most, prosperity or freedom? This question got me ringing. If he is some police or state guy, and I say freedom, I may be done for. I diplomatically answered that I like prosperity, as what use is that freedom if you do not have money. He said that you would not understand, but freedom is more important. I kept remembering this question when I read chapter 3 of the book and could relate to his feelings.
- We had to board a bullet train from Shanghai to Suzhou. We were heading to Yellow Mountain (Huangshan). There were security personals on the train station who were doing the routine checking of the luggage and the people. I saw that some people who were not well-off came, and their luggage and clothes were not good. The security personals did a so thorough checking as if they were the only terrorist. The security personals spilled out their stuff for a complete check. The travelers were frisked by pressing the EACH part of the body. I hope you understand what I mean. The site was very humiliating. I was standing there and seeing all this. They saw me (as a foreigner) seeing this and started staring at me. I looked away from there, but the threat was imminent.
- It is said that green tea is very famous in Huangshan. I went to ask a shopkeeper. She said some price, and I bargained. Though we agreed on some price, later, we understood that there is some miscommunication. I said I would not take the tea. She immediately reverted the packet without any displeasure or emotion. It was visible that some fear is there. People are terrified of the police there. If a tourist complains, then they may be in a good problem.
- We moved around in Shanghai, check out the local markets and other tourist places. Our group was discussing that we never expected China to be so well-off. No one can say that Shanghai is anywhere behind cities like New York City and London. Facilities and infrastructure were enviable. Apart from this, the town was very cheap. Anything we bought there was reasonable when converted to India rupee. We were quite excited, visited the local market, and did a lot of shopping. It was just like walking in Sadar Bazaar or Palika market, and only that language was a problem. We bargained using a calculator, showing the number we want. Sometime they would also say that this is in US dollars or Yuan. I remember the point in Ruchir Sharma’s book that if you feel that the country is easy to live in and cheap, then the government will do good (provided that there is a lot of investment being done sidewise).
I felt that the Chinese people are quite lovely. They are helpful and as jolly as people in other countries, but politics portray them in the wrong light. When they knew we are from India, we got extra attention as well as offer for help, if possible. This gesture itself is quite heartwarming when one is far from his own country. I am posting pictures of my experience in China, and keep in mind that it was in May 2011, so nearing ten years later now.