David Farnsworth brings us his promised insight into Provincial China today - with this comprehensive account of his recent visit and bike tour there.
And of course, as I mentioned in my last blog, Culture Shock is an issue, as is the health after being on the move for 30 hours getting ‘home’.
Three weeks in another town
My latest escapade involved three weeks in Weifang, which is a large city in Shandong Province, one of the wealthier provinces. Anhui, adjacent, is relatively poor, I believe. The pollution was the worst I have seen it since I started coming here in 2002. Eighteen days of it. Then the winds blew and the pollution disappeared. My Chinese friend, Kathy assured me it had gone to Australia. I keep mentioning the lack of water birds on all the expanses of water I pass. She assures me they are having a holiday in Australia. I went to Lake Wendouree in Ballarat and took some photographs to send her to show her how at home her birds are here.
Views from the train
On the train to Jinan (Provincial capital) I guessed that three-quarters of the smoke stacks were not working. I assume that the smaller factories have been closed down.
Certainly alternative methods of power generation are visible. In Shandong, almost every apartment has solar power. I would guess they are far cheaper than those sold here. Here in Weifang, they are placed on footpaths for sale, along with things like water melons.
And the tree planting along the freeways is far more ambitious and advanced than our sporadic efforts. One of the student text books referred to these plantations as The Great Green Wall.
A previous mayor of the city undertook an amazing beautification campaign, where flowering fruit trees, forsythias, lilacs and magnolias are everywhere. My friend Kathy assures me that the magnolia was the Mayor’s favourite. Chinese gardens rely heavily on large rocks and water. Trees are cared for. I saw a large tree in the middle of a road, protected by concrete barriers.
How people live and what they earn
In the last nine years there has been a rapid improvement in the wealth / living conditions of the middle class. (I don’t really get to see the poor or the rural people.) Most middle class now have an apartment and a modern car. (German, American, French are being produced for the Chinese market as well as a large variety and number of Chinese designs.) A small electric car is available here for the equivalent of $1,000.
In the ‘old days’ I would see women collecting coal which had fallen from trucks or men rummaging through construction rubbish, collecting wire and bricks. Not anymore.