China today: Abundance and Megalomania

China is today abundance and megalomania: more cars, bigger cars, lavish houses, maids, fancy downtown offices, and less time.

We visited China for the first time four years ago. Although we had expected some development, we were surprised. Everything was brand new, bigger, higher, and faster, in a word megalomaniac.

We travelled to China to see old and new friends all over China and visited Shenzen, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Wuhan.

Chinese railways used to be fast, efficient, and affordable for long-haul trips. The new phallus-shaped bullet trains were even too fast and much more expensive. We are not in a hurry but enjoy the travelling itself, and don’t mind slow and time-consuming train trips so for us, the value was low. Now there was considerably less choice as the government is pushing people to choose bullet trains by cutting down ordinary train lines in order to get returns for their investments.

Many Changes in Four Years

Another tangible change was vastly improved Internet censorship. Earlier it was easy to circumvent the Great Chinese Firewall (GFW) by using open proxies and anonymisers. This time everything was blocked including instructions, proxy lists, and client downloads. The only way left is to have friends outside China providing a VPN connection or an ssh tunnel, or to buy a vpn service from foreign companies exploiting the situation. Our friends helped us by providing an ssh tunnel to Finland. Thanks to that, we were able to continue blogging, sharing photos, and participating in social media.

Our friends had prospered and lived in abundance. They had more cars, bigger cars, lavish houses, maids, fancy downtown offices, and consequently much less time and much more stress. China appears to have absorbed well the Western self-destructive values of ever-lasting growth and worshipping materia.

Air pollution was worse than ever. Päivi was coughing and we could rarely see the blue sky. The cities were covered in constant haze. We would have much rather travelled slowly through cramped railway stations and walked, if the country had been cleaner, the sky bluer, and people happier with more time for each other. We hope to experience that kind of change on our next visit to China. For us, less is more.


I too lament the disappearance of the old "K" and "T" trains. Sometimes it's the journey, not the destination. It's great that we have the option of taking the bullet trains now, but people shouldn't be denied the choice between cheap, slow trains and fast, expensive ones. Not to mention that the fast trains are very expensive for working class Chinese - 146RMB for a trip from Shanghai to Nanjing (as opposed to about 45RMB by slow train) represents a big chunk of someone's salary.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Benson and happy new year from Melbourne!

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