Ni hao! I returned from China a week ago and it was so much fun. Unfortunately, I have had so much to do at work that I haven’t been able to blog about the People’s Republic of China. Four words; Beautiful country, Nice people!
I was in China for a 2-week Chinese Government Seminar for Officials from Developing Countries on Development Zone Policies. It was was exciting and presented a great opportunity to interact with some Chinese (Officials & non-officials) and other nationals, as well as visit some really cool parks, markets and other monuments.
I don’t even know how to structure this post but I will try to fit it all in one and make it less boring.
New Friends 新的朋友
One of the best parts of the trip was making new friends. By far, the Egyptians were my favourite; Ahmed, Nihal, Shiima, Nehal, Mohammed and Walaa. [I know they are reading; You guys rock!]. There were other cool people from Ethiopia, Vietnam and Zambia. At least if I find myself in their countries, I know I have a friend there.
We had great hosts we can call friends now. Steven, Celia and the other staff at AIBO were just lovely. Steven is always looking out for a brother :D At this point, I must say in my honest opinion, Chinese hospitality tops Ghanaian hospitality.
Beijing was fantastic! The best part was with the tours; visiting The Forbidden City, Behai Park, Silk Market, Yashow Market and of course climbing the Great Wall of China! ‘He who doesn’t reach the Great Wall is not a true man’ - Mao Zedong.
The world knows I love gadgets and I visited Zhongguancun on 3 occasions with Ahmed. Though we couldn’t get all we wanted, we got some pretty good bargains. The Apple Store in Sanlitun Village was the first Apple Store the fictional Apple Inc Executive has visited. It was packed with people. One couldn’t even move but for me, I was in a shrine.
iPhone 4 & iPhone 3GS
These are by far the most popular smartphones in China. Everybody has an iPhone 4 or 3GS. I saw a bunch of people making purchases at the Apple Store and I think every 5 people with smartphones I met, 4 had the iPhone 4 & 3GS. Androids are quite popular too. I saw only 2 Blackberrys in China. [Yes, I was counting]
As part of the seminar, we visited Dalian to see first-hand and interact with stakeholders in the Dalian Development Area. Dalian has some similarities with African countries having been occupied by the Russians and Japanese from 1898 to 1955 but that will be discussed in a different post.
I love Dalian. I left my heart there. It is indeed a lovely city with a lot of squares and parks. My group was skeptical about visiting Dalian. We wanted to visit Shanghai or Shenzen but Dalian proved us wrong. I can’t even begin to talk about the people. From the tour guide Hebe to everyone we say in the city including the Russians (a lot of Russians live in Dalian) were so friendly. The hotel staff at the Guo Mao Ja Ri Hotel were really nice and I made a personal friend called Xiao Han Song.
In Dalian, I learn’t something about Korea DPR. The hotel had some North Korean girls who performed some lovely songs for us. Interestingly, they double as waitresses at the hotel. Dalian isn’t far from Korea DPR, so children of officials are often sent there to work. They earn CN¥1,200 ($185) of which their government takes ¥1,000 ($30), which I learn’t is a lot of money in their countries. I also learn’t in Korea DPR, footballers earn as little as CN¥36.
It was also fun playing Cuju (Ancient Chinese Football) with complete strangers. The only bad thing was I tore my dope khaki trousers :(
Dalian nights were also cool; walking through the city and shopping. A lot of locals took a lot of pictures with me that my Egyptian friends joked about my picture being in the tabloids the next day. I can go on and on about Dalian. Maybe I will do a full post on Dalian later.
Mao Zedong & Deng Xiaoping
They are the two most revered men in China. You will hear phrases like ‘Chairman Mao, our great leader’ and ‘Deng Xiaoping, the architect of reform and open-up policy’ everywhere you go. I revere them too. I knew very little about Deng Xiaoping but visiting China and seeing how his policy and directives have driven the country to its current state, I can’t help but admire him some more. Since I returned home, I have been reading a lot about Deng Xiaoping and his works and occasionally post some of his quotes on twitter. Deng is my man!
The Communist Party of China
Don’t believe everything you read and hear in the media. The Chinese people love the Communist Party of China (CPC). Everybody I spoke to or sought his/her opinion told me how they admire the CPC. One man I interacted with in Dalian said he didn’t see the current political system changing in the next 50 years and I agree with him. The only way I see the CPC losing its legitimacy and as echoed by President Hu Jintao when addressing the CPC Central Committee on the occassion of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the CPC is the warning that ‘corruption could cost them the support and trust of the people’.
Let’s be fair. The CPC and its policies have worked for China. In a lot of my discussions with a friend from Zambia, Steven, whom I usually shared a seat on the bus with, we questioned whether the system wasn’t the best for our countries.
Dislikes and Half-Likes
China wasn’t perfect. There were a couple of things I didn’t like. Obviously, the Great Firewall of China is on top of that list. I wasn’t happy I couldn’t tweet and post updates from facebook. Not entirely though. A friend gave me a software (Freegate) to bypass the Great Firewall of China which I in turn distributed to everyone else [yeah, I am bad like that]. Ocassionally, it couldn’t bypass the firewall but it was better than nothing.
I was able to use Foursquare and Tumblr though, but I think the social media detox was good for me though. A lot of people argue how the Chinese government is giving her citizens half the internet. The good thing is that it has led to the growth of local companies; Baidu (Chinese Google), Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter), QQ (Chinese Yahoo! Messenger) - I use that :) There is a Chinese version of everything in China. There is even a Chinese ‘Proud to be Ghanaian’ :)
Like Ghana, A lot of people spit indiscriminately in public and a lot of people cough without covering their mouths. I think these are reasons airborne diseases spread like wildfire.
It was a wonderful trip and I really did enjoy China and I look forward to visiting soon.
I Love China!!!