Changing China

Giant on the move

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Beijing can’t fake itself just for Olympic visitors


A worker smokes after his lunch at a construction site in BeijingBeijing promised to turn itself into a model city after winning its bid for the 2008 Olympics almost seven years ago. I lived in the city then and thought, yay, go team. Beijing, afterall, could use some work.

Infamous traffic gridlocks would be sorted out, the waiting world was promised. Working-class taxi drivers who love to chatter in Chinese would speak English. City-dwellers would quit spitting on the sidewalks. The polluted grey skies that aggravated my head colds would turn blue. Order would be enforced at the capital’s chaotic international airport.

Twenty-four-hour construction that dominates kilometre after kilometre of sprawl would be polished off, making the wee hours darker and quieter. Foreigners would be welcomed, not blamed by association with their governments for upsetting China at some point in history. No more pirated DVDs, meaning less harassment on street corners and less friction between China and Western governments.

A dream team of state agencies, media and street-level public opinion advocated all these and a list of other changes before the Games.

Is China ready for the Olympics?


Construction workers walk past the National Stadium or Bird’s Nest in BeijingHardly anyone questions whether Beijing will be ready to host the Olympics Games in August. China is determined to put on a good show, the thinking goes, so that is what the world will get. 

No expense has been spared cleaning up the sky, removing traffic jams, building state-of-the-art stadia and teaching every Beijing taxi driver to speak some English.

So let the Relay begin



The moment China has been waiting for … well one of many Olympic moments. The torch relay kicked into gear on Monday, but not without a bit of drama. (The above picture is of China’s gold medallist swimmer Luo Xuejuan.)

The Chinese media lauded the event, and several pages of newspapers were devoted to lavish descriptions of the event.

China’s third-tier cities


Forget Beijing and Shanghai. If you want to see real China, go to some of the country’s third tier cities.

They’re fascinating, and I’ve been trying to go to as many as possible before leaving China for my next post. Places like Chifeng, Ulanhot, Ankang and Golmud.

Beijing shopping surprises


Shoppers rest in front of a billboard in BeijingI love to shop – I’m not afraid to admit it. And I passionately believe you can never have too many T-shirts, shoes or bags (and that you should never underestimate the power of a good moisturiser either).

One of the great joys of living in China, and especially in Beijing, is the shopping.

Chinese … it’s easy



It’s a piece of cake. In fact, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi says Chinese is one of the easiest languages in the world to learn.

“Otherwise,” Yang reasoned at today’s National People’s Congress, “it’s hard to explain why 1.3 billion have chosen it as their mother tongue.” (Thanks to Danwei for the Xinhua link.)