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?