8 December 2013 in | Comments (0)
I’m currently in China on a UK-China university trip, accompanied by people from 9 other UK universities. I have less access to the internet than usual, and no access to twitter, so instead find myself writing offline blog posts, which I’ll post when I’m able. Here’s the second.
So interesting to be in a place where everything is new. The train station in Shenzhen is new, and enormous, a vast open space – the Chinese are good at their vast open spaces, their huge public concourses and gathering places. Shenzhen reminded me of Dubai in some regard – I suppose because that’s the only other place I’ve been to that is so entirely new, and so much about building-bigger-better-now, though of course Shenzhen is ten times the size of Dubai already. Shenzhen no doubt has its bling but I didn’t come across it; instead, the area we were in had a lovely human scale to it. And of course, Shenzhen’s migrant workers are Chinese. My favourite sight: last night as my colleague Hongji and I were driven back to our hotel from Shenzhen Polytechnic where we had given a somewhat shambolic masterclass, we passed through an enormous intersection, building sites all around, where on one corner a large group of women were dancing to blaring music, their arms in the air, moving in unison. One of our hosts said that this activity – large group dancing – is becoming more and more popular currently. I wanted to join them.
Flying through the countryside now – the train goes 305km per hour (there’s a a digital speedometer at the front of the carriage, next to the sign for the loos) at its fastest – we are passing through lovely hills and peaks and over rivers and fishing ponds. There is widespread development everywhere, with roads and railways and factories and whole cities springing up. But the lovely shape of the landscape, with it’s inhabited plateaus and valleys, land terraced for cultivation, its sudden empty hills and, in the distance, tall peaks, is marred by the pollution, with a dense haze covering everything, forests where you can see the tops of the trees have turned orange. It’s difficult not to feel tremendously saddened by it – with the country’s huge population pressing in on itself. About an hour and a half out of Shenzhen – we are travelling due north toward Wuhan – the air cleared suddenly as we passed through an area with little development. Red soil. Occasional clusters of old buildings with pagoda-style curved roofs. Then we pass through another tunnel and suddenly there’s another village with fifty skyscrapers all being built simultaneously. I find the scale of building and development oddly moving. Human potential, and endeavour, and all that.