Change of Scenery
Dear Reader, I anticipate that I won’t have time to blog tomorrow night, and I’ll be preoccupied in Shanghai with family over the weekend. This may be my last entry for a few days. I will write again early next week, perhaps sooner. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some general thoughts on China and musings about changes transforming this immense and fascinating place. Having married into a Chinese family, I am far more intimated to Chinese culture than Korean culture. Traveling to China is like meeting up with a long-time friend, and I’m looking forward to visiting the Middle Kingdom again.
This will be my fourth trip to China in 12 years. I’ve seen some remarkable changes in this amazing country since my first trip in 1994, and I expect that China will have changed even more since my last visit in 2002. It is perhaps the most dynamic place on earth at the moment, and our destination, Shanghai, is the epicenter. I am looking forward to seeing not only the architectural changes that have revolutionized and modernized the city but also changes in the mindset of its residents.
When I first visited China in 1994, Shanghai had just begun its current push to become the economic center of East Asia. The Pearl of the Orient Tower was one of the few buildings standing in Pudong New City, a new commercial development situated across from the Bund, the downtown waterfront and former British concession. By 2002, Pudong had been largely developed. Despite the city’s architectural transformation, during my 2002 visit, I noted that Shanghai residents remained somewhat parochial and lacked the cosmopolitan paradigm of peer cities such as London and New York. During my upcoming visit, I plan to observe how attitudes have changed in China over the past four years. Chinese have always been a proud people, but what is new in Chinese minds’ is a sense of destiny, that China will reclaim its position as the center of the known world. Until the 1700’s, China was the strongest, most powerful realm in Asia. It is on its way to becoming so again. What remains to be seen is whether the Chinese can channel its newfound enthusiasm and energy into becoming a place that is fully integrated with the rest of the world. It may with time. This is not intended to upset ethnic Chinese who might read this–it is a realistic assessment of a nation that is moving so rapidly into modernity that it cannot possibly mature until it slows down.
We have several activities planned during our visit. On Saturday we arrive in Shanghai and will be met by family at Pudong International Airport. I wanted to take the high-speed Maglev train from the airport to downtown, but the family would rather pick us up by car (high-speed train and private automobiles–yet another change in China since the 1990’s). On Saturday evening we have a dinner planned with family. Sunday is Easter. We have a friend who will take us to church (yet another change since the Cultural Revolution–the spread Christianity has spread dramatically since the start of economic reform period of the 1980’s. Then, as mentioned earlier, we will visit Thames Town on Sunday afternoon (a very recent change–suburban, planned communities). On Monday I will go to work at an office in a large mall. I never would have thought that one day I would be working in a mall in China. The changes are absolutely amazing.