Since visiting China last August I haven’t had much to say about it. I still don’t. I heard Anthony Bourdain describe it as a country you can never know. I think that’s true. It’s changing too fast, has too much history, and social context I’ll never have the privilege of understanding.
China was both what I expected and nothing as expected. There were times I couldn’t access Google and pornography was blocked while prostitutes crowded the streets around Western hotels. In the land of Communism I’ve never seen a place where luxury and materialism thrived more. Skyscrapers are built by the dozen by rich and well connected contractors. A tailored suit cost $75 in the fabric markets. The super rich rein while booming population keeps labor cheap.
But these are just facts about China. Things anyone in Shanghai for a week would notice. Less noticeable are the undertones of change that separate new and older generations. The generation of Mao watching the new generation of techno-youth connect with the rest of the world like never before. Both connect and disconnected like never before in history.
I have the feeling China doesn’t know itself – but maybe that’s not exclusive to China. Where it’s headed is still a question mark. Meanwhile, individually, everyone fights to get their piece of the pie. Even the monasteries (around Shanghai) are a money grab – converted to tourist attractions as much as places of worship. Their piece of the pie.
China is a reflection of my own ignorance. A place I can visit, but I’ll never know.