China vs India and other bits

12 08 2007

I spent most of the last 2 weeks visiting my little brother, Nick, and his family in Suzhou, China.  I had a very relaxing time, not really exploring China much, but hanging out with Nick, Katherine and the kids.  They had a really crowded home while I was there, at one point there were Nick, Katherine, their 3 kids, Katherine’s parents plus two of the kid’s friends making nine people in a 3 bedroom flat.  I had decided to stay in a hotel 5 minutes walk away before I came over, so escaped the chaos and bathroom competition.  Hopefully they’ll be in their new apartment next time I visit.  I’ve stuck photos from my trip (including the new apartment) on Flickr.

I’ve been to China 5 times now since 1995 and it’s amazing to see the changes in that time.  In January I visited Pune and Mumbai in India, analogous cities to Suzhou and Shanghai in that they are both pairs of cities, one of which is a huge, industrialising and trading cities, the other being a traditional academic satellite of the metropolis.  However the difference between India and China is stark.  Suzhou lacks the obvious abject poverty I saw in India, with a general feeling of wealth and progress.  This is probably partly due to the Chinese government, both positively and negatively.  I suspect that internal controls in China prevent the wealthier regions from being overwhelmed by internal migration, even if a lack of skilled workers means that the police ignore blatant advertising for false documentation.  But also the evidence of planning, control and a stable environment clearly attracts foreign and domestic investment.  There is also a clear interest in the physical environment in Suzhou, with parks and other facilities for the locals.  The industrial park my brother lives in constitutes a city almost the size of Glasgow, created largely from scratch in 10 years with many of the factories that make China the workshop of the world, but still manages to be a pleasant place to live.

A clear example of the difference can be seen in the traffic and pedestrians in China compared to India.  In China the rules of the road are largely obeyed, with pedestrians in Shanghai marshalled by whistle blowing officers.  Indian roads seem to be a chaotic melee of individualists never looking backwards.  A change in China I noticed on this trip was the replacement of bicycles and motorbikes by electric bikes, silently and cleanly zooming around.

Now I’m back I ought to be getting my flat ready for the decorators, clearing shelves etc, or preparing for the training skills course I’m doing next week.  Instead I’ve spent today on computer, emailing people, uploading photos to Flickr or messing about on Facebook. Hey hoe.

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