Afterthought of a recent trip

The last few days , I was in Shanghai and Hangzhou. I have visited China many times before, and have been to SH and Hangzhou , but  my the last trip there was about 6 years back.

It was so much changed. Not just the landscape and buildings and infrastructure, but the people mainly the younger generation too.

In Shanghai , I traveled like a local, took their metro subway and their airconditioned buses.In Hangzhou, to avoid the heat, I took mainly the taxies. The subway system in SH is among one of the best, having tried the  London’s subway as well as subways in New York and and other cities.

Although the weather was shearing hot – the Jiangnan area was hit by a historic heat wave –  most transportations and buildings are now air-conditioned, and by travelling in mornings and  evenings, i avoided the hottest hours , and it was still bearable.

I also took the maglev train from Pudong to Loong Yang station as well as the bullet trains from HongChiao Station to Hangzhou to and fro. China is basically a train country. Train fares are not expensive even if you travel first class. The first class coaches on the bullet trains are very clean and comfortable, and you can basically get to any part of China using the train system.

It is easy to move around. Signatures are good in Shanghai, and are displayed in english as well as Chinese, so for a foreigner without knowledge of the Chinese language, it would still not be a problem to move around.

I have occasions to go into Starbucks and speak to some of the younger generation in English (pretending that i do not speak Mandarin). Two things that struck me: many of them speak  good American-accent  english, and the self confidence ( some may interpret this to be arrogance) of these younger generations. Compared this with Malaysia, where good English is getting harder and harder to come by..I must admit that the Starbuck crowd may not be representative of the general population as these are mainly the higher-income and better-educated groups.

Many of the toilets i used are so clean in areas of attractions and train stations and airport( there are still dirty toilets around,  in the older parts of the city) that it puts a shame on our Malaysia toilets in public places. Dirty toilets are one of the main things holding me back from travelling more often to that country, but after this trip, it would no longer worry me as much as before when I plan a trip to that country.

It is a country that is getting more and more confident of itself.  Though many areas are still tightly controlled, it was much more liberal than my last few trips there.

Contrast this with  Malaysia where  Lee Kuan Yew have said in his latest book, people are getting more and more orthodox  (a euphemism to suggest people are getting more and more conservative and more extreme in their views?)

Having said all these, China still has a lot to catch up. Many people still spit on the floor. Many people still cut queues and push their way around; many people are still rushing into the metro trains before we have a chance to alight. There are also many ‘service people” (like one metro ticket seller who refused to answer any queries) with ‘tidak apa’ attitude. The drivers on the roads are worst than Malaysia; it is really not advisable for a foreigner to drive in China, as most people disregard traffic rules, a thing that we Malaysians are now trying to catch up to.

One common complaint among the common people on the ground–  cost of living is shooting up. Like  Malaysia, property prices have gone up so much that it is beyond most people to buy. A house in Hangzhou city costs RMB 5-6 millions, those near to West Lake are even higher, some over RMB 10 millions. Shanghai is even more expensive.

This will be their leadership’s biggest challenge in years to come. If not dwelt with properly, it will definitely give rise to much discontent and become a potential time bomb.

A young taxi driver complained to me: the rich in China are those either with connections or those holding positions; whereas most people on the ground are poor.

Don’t these complaints sound similar?


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wave33
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:22:18

    Yes, it sounds very similar in the demographic between the have and have not. Politically, we could change that on 505. There is no political will and the poor and rural continue to support the regime that create wealth for themselves and not for the voters that voted them in.

    You want to be poor, that is your choice, please do not make the nation suffer with you.


  2. C++
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:23:43

    Dear Dr…

    It sound more like Malaysia… hahaha.. by the way… Malaysia still lead the way in corruption segment…. hahaha…


  3. Dr Hsu
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:59:59

    In most areas they are progressing. We are however regressing.

    As for corruption, we are among the most taked about country.. Malaysia boleh.


  4. Simple Sense
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 15:00:49

    Human nature. Human instinct. Irrespective of social political system, the rich few will continue to exploit the rest. It is consistent world wide. The only difference is in some countries, a person stand a fair chance to get ahead if he works hard n being entrepreneur. In other countries, close connection and leverage are the only ways and this leads to regression of the society because there is no productivity, only parasites. That how Arab Spring springs up everywhere in that region, it has been incubating since end of Second World War.


  5. Jong
    Aug 17, 2013 @ 10:15:10

    Dr Hsu,

    China may have the best 5-star toilets in city hotels, public place of interests but its people simply can’t handle it! They don’t even know what are doors for and if they should flush off their heaps after use. This, I personally witnessed at Beijing International Airport.

    Yes, rushing and elbowing their way through queues is common and disgrace!


  6. Li Li Fa
    Aug 17, 2013 @ 11:17:36

    Dr. Hsu,
    From your writing, I observe that travelling is always a good teacher. It sharpens one’s observation faculties, improves one’s discerning capabilities, and adds value to the opinions.

    One particular aspect is the foreign language which the Chinese young people have picked up at cafes is the Amercian version of English, particularly the accent. This, I believe could be due to the strong globalization of many American brands, like Starbuck, KFC, Coke, and of course the impact of the internet. I am also aware that English is now being taught in the kintergarden, starting the people from young. This emphasises the importance of English as a global language.

    Looking at home ground, the issue of English language teaching in school is still bogged down by various problems of policies, lack of trained teachers, and the wavering of decisions of those in authorities.

    Perhaps, one day we will have to import teachers from Chinese to teach English.


  7. Dr Hsu
    Aug 17, 2013 @ 11:31:25

    Jong and Li Li fa
    The point is that while their Foreign language skills are improving, we Malaysians as a people are regressing.

    Most of the young generation in China knows that they need to learn and speak english well in order to have a better life ahead. Those who work in multinationals are earning better wages. So there is an incentive for them to improve.

    Looking at our own country, beacuse of the crutches given to the people, there is no such incentive. And the leaders themselves, while sending their own children to international schools and foreign countries to study, constantly try to fan the people to be more narrow-minded, in order to perpetuate their rule.
    After this election, things are going to be worse. Leadership is going to be more extreme to try to consolidate the rural votes. Because of the more extreme views, urban people are going to be more and more against the ruling government, and the rural urban divide will widen.

    Malaysia is indeed going to be more and more orthodox.


  8. Wave33
    Sep 03, 2013 @ 10:03:02

    There would be multiple strategies to stay in power. The main focus of UMNO is to stay in power. It is NOT about a better Malaysia, it is NOT about governing the country well and it is NOT about prosperity of Malaysian. It is about enriching oneself.

    Religious issue and Race issue would be played until it tilt. UMNO knows that the uneducated will unite when their race are marginalize and their religion is under “threat” and losing ketuanan is a big matter. It is about superiority on Race and Religion. Both these factors brought wars and killings over the centuries. We can’t do anything about religion, because it is faith. Superiority while walking with a tongkat is another matter. Don’t they feel embarrass, if they travel overseas and the host country asked whether the person “tongkat” is made of wood, silver or gold? It would be a hard time to explain. It was never easy to explain about apartheid and we have apartheid 2.0 now.

    Widen the divide among rural and urban will enhance further if the above “failed”. UMNO will continue to suppress the rural from being educated and prosper. Handouts will be a continuous bait for those whom are needy. Who the hell cares that money can’t buy everything. When you are poor, you are even willing to sell your kidney for it, not mentioning votes.

    With the increase of petrol price by 20 sen, it will further burden the Rakyat. Hence, making BR1M a saviour for the rural folks. BR1M is god sent from UMNO.

    Terima kasih UMNO. Allah lanjutkan usia UMNO!


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