Monday, February 6, 2012

Latest from Shenzhen, And Something to Think About

Ah Shenzhen, a city so truly bizarre and unlike anything else you could possibly imagine, that it even completely dwarfs other outliers. I was reading an article in NatGeo the other day about Astana, the newish capital of Kazakhstan. In short, Astana was basically built out of the steppe in the early 1990's, and has since increased its population from a little under 300,000 to nearly 1 million in about 20 years.

An impressive feat, certainly, and one which NatGeo brought a lot of attention to, saying this was a sign of the booming Kazakh economy, helped significantly by oil and other natural resources. However, when put in the context of Shenzhen...this growth is thoroughly unimpressive. Shenzhen went from 300,000 people 30 years ago to 14 million today. I'm sure I've said that in this blog a few times already in previous posts, so for those 3 frequent readers of every blog (that being my parents and grandmother), my apologies for being repetitive! But seriously, consider that. And incredibly, Shenzhen continues to grow. All over the city, there are buildings being built taller and taller, the whole thing has a massive bubble-like feel to it, but for the time being...we'll see. It's interesting to note some of the architectural layouts of the city as a whole--enormously wide sidewalks, insane 16-lane highways going through the center of the city, and just a remarkably well-planned (albeit with something of a "slapped together at the last minute due to population multiplying by 30 in as many years" feel to it) place.

That said, one problem I have been facing as of late is the lack of things to do in Shenzhen. Yes, there are a lot of people. And yes, a lot of those people are young people, and there's a cool youthful culture. But the fact is, this is a city built for one reason--work. You come to Shenzhen after university, work for a few years, make some money, and then, by and large, many of these people return home. This leads to a number of issues, most notably:

1) No one is actually from Shenzhen. Consequently, few people really feel motivation/need to clean up after themselves, not litter, etc. This leads to something of a dirtyish city (though much of this is taken care of by people who's only job is to clean up trash in the streets. There are thousands of them)
2) No real "center" of the city. Now this really shouldn't be a huge issue, but I suppose I just find it rather odd to live in a city that is so vast and sprawling that it lacks a proper center where everything sort of revolves around. Here, there are 2 major districts, Futian and Luohu, that contain the majority of Western companies, hotels, skyscrapers, etc., but there is absolutely no "Center of Town"
3) The night life here, while pretty good, is poor for a city of this size, probably because everyone works quite a bit, and those who have the money to go out are often quite a bit older. Those could both be completely incorrect, they're just my perceptions. Anyway.

One thing that Shenzhen does NOT lack, however, is the most ridiculous city hall ever constructed by mankind. Fortunately, my office is located right across the street. As you can see
in the picture at left, that is truly the most staggering city hall ever. And the building on the far left with white lights going up it and continuing onto the top part is, of course, my office here in China :-)

So anyway, the last week has been interesting. Things have been more or less finalized for my trip to the US at the end of this month, seems I'll be leaving for Atlanta on 28 February and returning to China around March 6th. Should be pretty good, given that, in addition to of course having all expenses paid for, I will earn about 20,000 frequent flier miles, and a few hundred in "personal spending money" to go with it. So not a bad deal! Will also be able to see one of my best friends from High School/University, Bryan, who has recently moved to Atlanta, so overall should be a good trip.

Apart from that, have spent a decent little bit of time in Hong Kong over the last week, and have also been able to explore Shenzhen a little bit more, which has yielded some interesting mixed results in terms of things to do around this crazy pseudo-Chinese city. There was a very interesting controversy recently that pitted Mainland Chinese against Hong Kongers in a test of childish insults. Here's how it went down:

1) Mainland Chinese family was in the Hong Kong subway system, a small Mainland Chinese child was eating something on the train. A Hong Konger, in a fit of Canto-rage, decided to start yelling at these Mainlanders about not being able to eat. Now, let me be clear here, I don't speak Chinese. Or Cantonese. But from what I was told by the Mainland Chinese news outlet (and actually, some much less propaganda-related sources), the Mainland Chinese family apologized, said they would not do it again, and tried to defuse the situation. The Hong Konger persisted with his rage, pushed the emergency call button, summoned subway security, etc. Turned into a huge deal.

2) A prominent professor at Peking (Beijing) University (the "Harvard of China") comes out and says, among other things, that Hong Kongers speaking Cantonese is offensive to China, that Hong Kongers are dogs, pigs, and probably meaney-faces. Additionally, he talks about how the Hong Kongers are so timid and submissive to the British (I believe the wording he used was "poopy-head") and then so brash and brave with the Mainland Chinese. In addition to uttering a handful of childlike insults, the professor proceeded to wet himself before asking for a bottle of milk before naptime.

3) Hong Kong citizens, in a reaction that had about as massive of consequences as 1/4 inch of snow in Chicago in January, rented out a full-page ad in a newspaper calling the Mainland Chinese "locusts". This served absolutely no purpose, apart from probably just allowing Hu Jintao to soil his morning newspaper with spat-out coffee after seeing it and being so taken aback. Or not.

So how to react to this? What to make of it? Well, to try to treat this objectively--I've spent about 9 months of my life living in Hong Kong/Shenzhen. Yes, LOTS of Mainlanders come to Hong Kong all the time. And yes, some of them are rude, obnoxious, blatantly richer than you, me, and Tom Friedman's Aunt Bev. But for the love of god, these Mainlanders contribute SO FREAKING MUCH to the Hong Kong economy with their purchases of $2,000US Gucci handbags, $10,000 Rolexes, and $250,000 sports cars. I look at it as such--Hong Kong would not exist without Mainland China. Period. Mainland China would exist very easily (though admittedly probably not as prosperously) without Hong Kong. I understand that Hong Kongers are fed up with Mainlanders flooding their city every weekend, and that this incident was simply that frustration boiling over, but come on now people. Let's just take a deep breath and put everything in perspective: whether you're Mainland, Hong Konger, Macauese, or Taiwanese, you're all still far, far more Chinese than I am. And that's all that counts.

Have found a fairly interesting Law School program that involves 3 months at National University of Singapore (#4 uni in Asia) then 9 months at a law school in Shanghai. Cost--~$9,500US (50,000 Chinese Yuan). Very interesting, as it specializes in International Business Law. Do I plan on going into law? Probably not. But is "probably not" just a confident enough answer to justify at least considering a law degree for <$10,000 and <1 year of my time? Yeah, I'd say so.

Other than that, not much in terms of updates. More to come as things develop over here in the Orient, cheers for reading to this point.

And on a final note, a quote to think about by Richard Dawkins:

“Think of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all you really were there at the time, weren’t you?
How else could you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you weren’t there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place .... Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that does not make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important.”

Now that, friends, is a deep quote from a very, very atheist man.

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