Land of Contradictions and Complexity

Trip Start Jun 30, 2008
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Trip End Dec 31, 2009


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Flag of China  , Guangdong,
Monday, March 9, 2009

Who said "you can't take it with you?"  I was beginning to wonder if you can take your worldly wealth with you because these past weeks (and months) a lot of money has disappeared around the world and I have not found others accumulating what has gone missing.  I think most, if not all of us feel a little or a lot "slimmer" financially.  We have seen our savings all but evaporate and the prosperity and 'easy cash' we became accustomed to "freeze up".

We now live in a 'new world'. A world where what we knew is no longer valid and those with the vision and energy will welcome, learn and prosper from the coming changes.  Let this be a warning to North America and Europe that unless we begin creating productive capacity rather than over consumption our standard of living will forever be diminished. 

We can wait around for our governments to 'bail us out' "taking money from one pocket and moving it into the other" or we can accept what is and make the necessary adjustments.  The old USSR, Cuba and even China have tried this policy in the past and only have or are failing.  Japan too, who 19 years ago was in the same place the US is right now is still in recession because of their policy of "bailing out".  If only we could learn from history.  I'm not suggesting that things are going to be "comfortable" in the near future but unlike our western mentality of  immediate gratification here in the East (say China) they take a much longer perspective and instead of 6 months or 2 years they think and speak in terms of 10-20 years!!

China is many things and even in the words of a friend and reader of this blog "China seems to be a land of contradictions! They take great care serving food, yet allow chickens to live in an apartment building!"  I couldn't agree more with this observation.   Men (and not women) smoke "like chimneys" yet exercise and drink green tea like they too will live to 106!!  The Chinese are very health conscious for example just this morning while driving with my friend to go swimming we got behind a small bus that was spewing out dark exhaust.  I could see the bystanders shaking their heads at this pollution and my friend picked up his cell phone and called his friend in the police department to check the vehicle out.

The Chinese take great care of themselves yet their teeth look like the least important item to them.  I don't know if it is their diet or water or they just don't put much emphasis on their dental care but it is certainly a distraction for someone who spends thousands on his family's teeth. 

         When we were in India we saw many children with terrible looking teeth yet most of the adult's teeth looked fine.  When I questioned a mother about her daughter's teeth she said why spend all that money to protect teeth that will fall out.  The idea was to let the teeth be and by the time their adult teeth come in they know how to take care of their teeth and so will last a lifetime.  It still amazes me how logical that sounds and question why we are so 'freaked out' when our dentist tells us little Johnny has a cavity.  Yet what they don't tell you is that that tooth will fall out soon and that it really does no good to spend the $1000 bucks .

Most of us see China as a peasant nation yet if you were here you would surely second guess that assumption.  North America is made up of nations run by lawyers whereas China is a nation lead by engineers.  It is easy to see the differences in national policy now that many nations are facing financial crisis.  Our political leaders (lawyers) are arguing over how to take money from one group and give it to another based on political pressure.  In China, they take a very practical (engineered) approach of how they can best create wealth by investing in their  infrastructure so that they are more efficient and competitive in the (many) years to come. 

India and China are two of the world's most populated nations and if I were to generalize about these two nation's and their number one obsession I would say that it is education.  India already speaks English (thanks to the British) so they strive for the best education possible at any cost.  India has many well educated people but they too need less lawyers and more engineers in charge as their infrastructure is in need of much work.  

China lacks the ability to speak English (for now) but with their increasing productive capacity (not only low labour costs) within a generation they will be very capable to compete for all our English speaking jobs.  This is why I decided to 'drop everything' in my life and give my family a 'heads up'on what is coming our way.  (Contrary to some's belief that I've gone crazy or have had a midlife crisis!)  In a way we are just beginning to see the start of a worldwide change of global power concentration.  Ever since the beginning of time, the country/or area that held the debt was the centre of power.  Asia is not saying much (either directly or indirectly) but hold a very large IOU (trillions of $$) from the current Super Power (the USA).  I would say within a generation or two we will see a great power shift from West to East.

Already, I hear and meet many Chinese that are flocking to the US to buy Real Estate because they think it is very good value.  Does this not remind you of what happened 30 years ago when you couldn't go anywhere without seeing dozens of Japanese snapping up everything in Hawaii and California and snapping photos of everything and anything in North America?

Since Janice started teaching and we successfully moved this week to the 19th floor of building #1 I decided to teach our children how to start an English School of their own.  We had such an amazing response that our classes were packed out and we had to turn people away.  For a minute I thought it was my amazing teaching ability that created such a frenzy for learning but sadly it was not.  It's the Chinese belief that to do well and get ahead their children need to learn English and learn it well.  We thought eight students per class in our apartment would be fine but with the 5 of us, 16 students and 5 parents, 1 rabbit and 1 turtle per class it was a challenge.  We had students from 12 week old 45 !!

Please remember that although it was Friday night, Saturday or Sunday these students still showed up to our class.  The school system here puts ours to shame.  Students leave for school at 7am, have a two hour lunch/sleep/break in the afternoon and then return home about 4:30 Monday to Saturday. 

I am amazed daily here.  The other day we all went to visit an English teaching school as we were in the area and arrived just before 2pm.  I knocked on the office door as it was closed but because the sign said 'come in' I did.  As I poked my head in the office the lights were out and the 8 staff members had their heads on their desk sleeping or reading the news online.  They have a lunch/sleep/rest break for 2 hours together which just would not happen back home.  The Chinese seem to have a great work ethic in combination of with the ability to work well together as a team.       

This post has gone on way too long and sorry if it seemed political but I'm just looking and listening........

Let me finish for now by saying that with everything that is going on around us we all are facing a 'test or two' but the only way to pass it to 'take it'!  I encourage you to keep an open mind, do not lose hope and know that nothing worth having every comes easy.

We love and miss you all !
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Comments

pdreynol
pdreynol on

Your insights and reactions to China
I loved reading your reactions and observations. Even after I lived in china (Hong Kong) for 23 years and wrote 2 books on Chinese law I always felt I was scratching the surface. Not because it is so huge; not because it has so many of all the earth's peoples; not because it is such a young 'nation' I felt I knew little. There are many Chinese cultures and many types of Chinese but the real challenge to understanding China its capacity and desire to change. Not step by step; not slowly; and not according to the National Five Year Plan but headlong full speed. Just when I thought I understood Shanghai (after 12 trips and working there for about six months) I would not visit for say 2 years. When I came back there were obvious changes of buildings and infrastructure but where did their love of all things Japanese come from; where did all the non-traditional art world spring from; where did the rebellious youth all come from. None of that was discernible (at least not to me) a mere 24 months earlier. It is the same all over the country. You can't know China because it changes so fast and so much.

Continue to enjoy the experience which will continue to transform your whole family. May God bless you.

maaske
maaske on

Re: Your insights and reactions to China
Wish you were here with us to help us digest some of what we are experiencing!! We will have time to catch up and share stories soon.

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