Friday, November 25, 2005

Back in the USA and some final thoughts.

Photo taken from a restaurant patio on the Bund, the Shanghai commercial street, up the Huang Po river. This area looks everything like Fifth Avenue in NYC.

We arrived in Oakland at 1 pm on Tuesday, having departed Hong Kong at 4 pm that same day. Weird. We were exhausted when we got to our hotel room so we ordered in and went to sleep to be rested for the 6 hour flight home the next day.

I know it's going to take some time to process all that we saw and did in this fabulous country. I have only uploaded a fraction of the photos I shot, and Kathy will be adding more notes from her meetings in the coming days. I have just finished the book I brought with me on the trip, China's new rulers : the secret files / Andrew J. Nathan and Bruce Gilley.
(This was the book that I thought might be confiscated at customs since it might have violated the Customs declaration, "articles prohibited from importation in accordance with the laws of the PRC: Printed material , films, photographs, etc. ....which are detrimental to the political, economic, cultural, and moral interests of China." I thought better not to declare it. )

I have a better understanding of what the authors' call the "Fourth Generation" of current leadership, and the relatively smooth succession of power that happened between Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, and the stresses and strains among the leadership who are the seven Politburo members and the Peoples Congress, to liberalize or tighten the amount of political freedom. One of the members was even calling for direct elections of officials right up through the provincial level. Now that we are getting the first news reports of the environmental disaster in Harbin and of the Chinese government's delayed response in warning the residents of the toxic spill, I am again reminded of the challenges the 1.4 billion inhabitants face in the near future. As we all know democracies have a difficult time handling these types of episodes let alone an authoritarian regimes not given to reporting poorly on itself, but I was heartened to hear that the Communist Youth newspaper stated immediately that there had been a government coverup.

This in itself is reason for hope: the youth of China who were born in the 1980's are the children first to be born under the one-child policy. Or as Gerard our guide put it, "the one-healthy-child policy." They are intelligent, highly competitive, knowlegeable about all things western, rebellious, and will not accept all that is told to them by the authorities. This force will be difficult one for the system to control and to channel.

Photo: Boys playing hoops at a Shanghai High School


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