Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wandering around Chengdu

A young blond woman approached me in the backpackers bar. "Do you have iTunes on your laptop? I'm desperate for movies. I can't get on a train or bus without them!"

I resisted the urge to point her to the lodge's huge shelf of free books. Anyway, who am I to question how people spend their time? I'm probably just jealous because I wish I had free time instead of always having to either work, write, or blog when I get a moment.

I suggested she try the teenagers at the front desk. Chinese teenagers are no different from any teenagers anywhere. They have movies on their iPods, their computers, and their flash drives and copyright didn't seem to phase them. They set her up.

Chinese teens were really impressing me. Not because they are better or worse than other teens, but because they were the same. I wondered about the ridiculous censorship in China, and the role of the USA, the hackers, and Google, if there even was one. I'd met a 27-year-old Chinese backpacker in Chiang Mai whose perfect American accent fooled even me—I'd assumed he was from the US West Coast but he'd been from Shanghai and had an American teacher—and he'd laughed when I told him that people in the US were worried about China.

"But we're told it's the US that is the problem! That the US is in charge of the world and that the US can make us do anything. All US, all the time, and that we should all learn English."

We had a hearty shared laugh about our respective bogeymen.

Can't we all just get along?

I agree with an article in the New Yorker that pointed out that no bubble in history has gone unpopped. So I think China will have an inevitable crash, as many other economies that caught on fire have crashed throughout the course of history. I don't doubt the economic crash and the inevitable deterioration of roads and buildings built in a hurry (and trains to Tibet). What I think is up in the air, however, is how the future Chinese government addresses internet freedom, transparency, and human rights. What I was finding in China is that while I am NOT a fan of China—I am appalled by China's human rights records—I am a huge fan of young Chinese, the kids the age of my students. Because they're just like my School of Visual Arts students back in New York. And in time, as they age into positions of power and responsibility, they will change China, whether China wants to be changed or not, bubble aside.

Here are a few photos from wandering around Chengdu, which is a modern city with a new metro, long, straight boulevards, and an efficient bus system.

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