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Red Shades of China, it isn’t as red anymore as you may think All Rights Reser

ANDREW JARDINE

 

China isn’t as red anymore as people are led to believe. When I made one of my first trips there, I expected to land in a backward and unsophisticated society. I didn’t fear that I would bump into a crouching tiger or dragon, but most of my knowledge about the country came from movies. I had loved watching Empire of the Sun, a film about the Japanese occupation during World War II, and my memories of it were still vivid in my mind.

 

I knew that China has come a long, long way since those days. But I found I had arrived in a far more modern and sophisticated one than I expected. My first destination was the capital city of Beijing. Arriving at any airport can be frustrating, and it proved so. China is a very security conscious country, much like America is today. Terrorism is a major problem, so customs officials were thorough when checking my papers. The company that owned the newspaper I worked for in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post, had a controlling interest at the Shangri-La hotel group, so I stayed at 33% off the normal price at the Shangri-La hotel. It turned out to be just as plush as any of the hotels I had stayed in at Hong Kong and other cities around the world.

 

It’s true that many parts of China still linger in the past, but Beijing was a big surprise. A taxi took me past ultra-modern buildings on roads, however, that were jam-packed by traffic. Pollution remains a major problem in the city. The shopping malls aren’t as smart as the ones in Hong Kong, but you can buy top-designer brands such as Gucci, Christian Dior, Prada, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani. Items there aren’t “copies”, they’re the real McCoy. Enticed by such a huge market, many top Western companies have established a presence in China, hoping to make a bucketful of dollars from the 1.3 billion people who live there. You can purchase a Ferrari, Lamborghini or a Porsche, slip your checkbook back into your pocket and drive away. You can buy almost anything. Years before I travelled there, I reviewed a book, Pianos and Politics in China. To my surprise, I read that China was the biggest producer of pianos in the world. However, during the Cultural Revolution decades before, the piano was seen as “a coffin, a black box in which the notes rattled around like the bones of the bourgeoisie.” Now, about 30 million children are learning to play the instrument.

 

It’s a staunchly communist country, but one that has come a long way since it first emerged thousands of years before the birth of Christ. The days of the dynasties, when emperors ruled, are gone. Its economy has grown at an impressive pace. At one time, it had moved as slowly as a rickshaw, now it is accelerating as fast as a Ferrari. It’s the second biggest economy in the world after the United States, but its per capita income remains a fraction of that of America. It is still red, but the introduction of capitalism has given a different shade to communism.

 

But who wouldn’t want to visit one of the cradles of civilization? There’re plenty of China bashers in the West, perhaps jealous of China’s economic rise, but this didn’t deter me from taking a trip there. Critics too often focus on the negative aspects of the country. Look at how many millions of people died when Mao Zedong ruled, they say. What about the massacre in Tiananmen Square? They also point a finger at political repression and the forced labor camps. China’s greatest sin, of course, in the eyes of the Western world, is that it is communist.

 

They say that a journey of a thousands miles starts with a single step. Deng Xiaoping, then China’s leader, who took part in the Long March from 1934-35, took an economic step in the early 1980s that put the country on the road to financial success. He introduced special economic zones in several provinces, and brought capitalism into the political mix. Nowadays, it’s called capitalism with Chinese characteristics. The country has never looked back. It has had its ups and downs but the growth rate has usually been higher than 7%. It’s true that China is coming from a low base, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Since those early days, many international countries have moved their factories in China, mainly because of the cheap labor. It’s something that has angered many American politicians, including presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Many items you buy, including your iPhone, are now made in China. A Chinese pal of mine in Hong Kong made a small fortune out of selling tins for high quality confectionery in Europe. “You have to be careful,” he said. “The trick is to find a good factory. There are many poor ones.” He obviously did and gave me a sweet ride on his 60-foot yacht to underline this point.

 

During my time there, I visited the Summer Palace, long restored to its former glory after French and British troops destroyed and looted it in 1860; the Temple of Heaven, all built by joinery with not one nail or screw used; the Forbidden City, where emperors of dynasties past ruled; the Ming Tombs, where they were laid to rest; Tiananmen Square, the site of the 1989 massacre of people rebelling against corruption; and the Great Wall of China, where I received a certificate for climbing up one section of it at Badaling. The Chinese, like any others, have an eye on the buck. After I returned to ground level, I discovered I could have bought a certificate at an office there without having to shed so much sweat! I also checked out the amazing Terracotta Warriors in Xian. It was worth the trip.

 

The most popular way to travel to China is by air. Tired of the long queues and the time waiting in airports, I decided to take a train from Hong Kong to Beijing. I paid for a deluxe compartment on the train, which I shared with a Malaysian businessman. He loved trains, he said, and preferred them to air travel. I could see why. Instead of sitting cramped in an economy seat on a plane, I slept on a wide, comfortable bunk. We had our own valet, who served us drinks, and had meals in the nearby dining car. During the day, we watched the countryside roll by and at night nodded off to the sound of the wheels on the track. The train left Kowloon Station in Hong Kong at 4.30pm and arrived in Beijing at 7am the next day. The trip saved me a night’s accommodation in Beijing. Getting through customs was far easier at the station than at the airport.

 

Of course, one doesn’t have to travel only to Beijing. The other destinations, including Shanghai, are too numerous to mention. I took a couple of short trips from Hong Kong just over the border to the cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou in Guangdong province. On one trip, I caught a train to Shenzhen, did some shopping, and then went on to Guangzhou. The next time, I boarded a ferry in Hong Kong and headed direct for Guangzhou. I stayed at the five-star White Swan hotel and visited a fascinating market nearby. I also played golf in China. A few times at Mission Hills near Shenzhen and once at Chung Shan Hot Spring Golf Club near Zhong Shan City. “Everything is big in Texas,” it’s said. Well, everything. I can tell you, is bigger in China! The Mission Hills complex hosts all of 12 golf courses.

 

If you can afford it, stay at one of Beijing’s top hotels, which are worth every dollar you spend. But there are many other less expensive options, including guesthouses. I avoided taxis and rather travelled on buses or trains. I travelled on buses to the Summer Palace and other nearby sights, but boarded a train when I set off for a section of the Great Wall.

 

Travellers worldwide have long realized that it’s cheaper to buy your drinks or something to eat at a supermarket than the hotel. Most hotel packages include breakfast, but you pay extra for other meals.

 

In my nearly a quarter of a century living in Southeast Asia, I travelled to many countries in both the West and Far East. It’s an education and an excellent way to discover what they are really like. The United States turned out very different from the one I imagined. So did Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Egypt, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mauritius, Turkey, Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, France, England, Scotland and Wales to name most of them. You can get a fair idea from surfing the Internet, but the best way to learn about countries is by travelling to them. See for yourself. It’s the best way by far!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intro

Economic zones

Factories

Apple others etc

Tins for sweets

Pianos and review

Long Walk

Shanghai Tang

Guangzhou

Shenzhen

Golf courses

Trip by train

By ferry

By plane

Beijing

Badaling

Silk Road

Jade

Great Wall

Temple of Heaven

Summer Palace

Tiananmen Square

Ming Tombs

Forbidden City

Traffic

trains

Pollution

Hotels

Restaurants

Shops

Warriors

Mountain

 

 

 

 


Red Shades of China, it isn’t as red anymore as you may think All Rights Reser

China is still staunchly communist, but since it introduced capitalism in special economic zones, its economy has grown to the second largest one in the world after the United States. The new plan was the brainchild of leader Deng Xiaoping, who took part in the Long March from 1934-35. He introduced the changes in the early 1980s, and China has never looked back. It now boasts sophisticated cities in which hotels rival the best on the planet. It's great to step back into history and visit sites such as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall of China. Fly there or even take a train from Hong Kong to Beijing. I found my trips there and unforgettable experience.

  • Author: Andrew Jardine
  • Published: 2016-06-27 06:05:06
  • Words: 1556
Red Shades of China, it isn’t as red anymore as you may think All Rights Reser Red Shades of China, it isn’t as red anymore as you may think All Rights Reser