China Diary:
North by Northeast


[Leaving Home] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Settling in Shanghai] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Getting to Work] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Becoming Routine] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Western Contacts] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) ["National Day" Trip] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Meeting Folks] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Plenty to Eat] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Downtown] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [South by Southwest] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Socializing] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Dance Fever] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Exchanges] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Business Week] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [North by Northeast] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Computer Crash] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [The Good and the Bad] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Wrapping Up]


Nov. 30: This is China – The arrival from Wenzhou was delayed by thick fog in Shanghai. I get home at noon in the rain and find a Post Office slip in my mail box for a package. So I grab my passport, bungee cord (in case I have to tie it to my bicycle), and ride over to Five Corners. Upon arrival I receive a package small enough to fit in my pocket. Upon returning home, I inexplicably receive a larger envelop which the Post Office delivered while I was gone. Over dinner and brew at Mr. Pizza, Yoshi and I compare notes about our recent experiences. To me, China has become a land of excuses for not changing. In Wenzhou I witnessed what is truly possible when entrepreneurs are left to their own devices and have the right incentives. There was no real culture clash between Western and Eastern ways of running an enterprise, only those that bureaucrats artificially create. I’ve seen China’s problems back home many times. To make the point, when we arrive we discover there is no running water.

Dec. 1: Water, Water, Everywhere – Winter is arriving, which in Shanghai means rain, wind, and falling leaves. But there is still no running water in the apartments, so the maids bring a couple of buckets of water for our bathrooms. The heat is also being turned on, so I can let my clothes dry indoors protected from the dust and soot outside. By afternoon, the taps are once again flowing water.

Dec. 2: Business Ethics Jam – I return to Jiao Tong University in the evening to hold a seminar in Business Ethics. After, I join Maurice and Mark in some three-way guitar jamming. I borrow Arnaud’s guitar since he is not around now. He’s from France, and he and his girlfriend Sabine live next door to me. They both teach French, she at Fudan and he at a smaller French institution, mostly in the evenings. Both are also fluent in Mandarin and English. I suggest we call our new band the "Foreign Experts" since that’s what we’re already known as anyway. We each have our musical style preferences but seem to blend well. Maurice and I head over to the shack for late dinner and do a couple of karaoke duets. Maurice has no trouble convincing the proprietor to let our new group play there some evening.

Dec. 3: English Spoken Here – Catherine and Dan take me to a Korean bar-b-q for dinner. They are recent Fudan Law School graduates who started an English program with Fudan. Both A.J. and Mark teach for them, and I agree to speak at to one of their Enlgish classes. Catherine was born in Shanghai but her parents moved to New Orleans when she was little and she grew up there, returning to attend law school. After dinner, I get Maurice and we bike to the English Platform. We split up, and things begin a bit slow for me until I ask their opinion about the Three T’s: Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen.There is consensus about Taiwan, but Tibet is a bit controversial. Naturally, this leads us to Tiananmen and a discussion about human rights. Some are quick to compare China to (in)justice in the U.S.

Dec. 4: Qingdao – Except for entering China through Beijing, I’ve traveled only in the south of China. Hangzhou and Suzhou are considered "heaven on earth" and Guilin is renown for its scenery. Shanghai has long been considered a window on the Western World while Guangzhou was the gateway to Hong Kong and Wenzhou the land of entrepreneurs. Now I head northeast. Qingdao (literally, "Green Island"), in Shandong ("East mountains") Province, is considered one of China’s most beautiful port cities. It was a sleepy little fishing village on the Yellow Sea until the Germans colonized it from 1897-1914. The ever-efficient Germans swiftly built railways, harbors, utilities, mines, missions – and the famous brew (Tsingtao) they founded in 1903 that is now one of the city’s major exports and probably not far behind Chinese toys and textiles overall. The Japanese invaded in 1914-1922 and again in 1938; today, it is invaded by South Korean investors building factories. I visit during the first weekend of December a summer resort renown for its white sandy beaches. It is six degrees centigrade (forty degrees Fahrenheit) with remnants of the recent snowstorm. I enter around dusk, but you can see the mountains all around. With off-season rates, I stay at the Qingdao Hotel in the center of town and, on a tourist twist, pay $22 per night supposedly because I am American. "How bad can it be?" I wonder. Well, this must be the worst accommodations I’ve had yet in China. Nonetheless, I put on my ski parka and stroll the esplanade. With my hood on, I almost blend into the sparse nighttime crowd except for my map and camera. When I return to my room later at night, I feel I’ve been taken by cabbies, a restaurateur, and the hotel pub. Of course, these must all be miscommunications. "What could be next?" I wonder.

Dec. 5: Keine Deutsch hier gesprechen – If you are expecting a little Bavaria on the sea, forget it. There are no delis or pastries. Qingdao has Bavarian-style mansions and red-tiled roof buildings, but they are mostly walled in, typical Chinese style. I stroll by the two remaining churches, through many parks, past several old government buildings, and along the beaches with its handful of brave swimmers. Nearly lunchtime, I go to the top of the Huiquan Dynasty Hotel which has a buffet in its revolving restaurant. At $7.50 for all you can eat, the view alone is worth the price. Next, I make my way up to the top of Xinhaoshan Park for a final panorama. Putting in an afternoon of work on my laptop, I search for a restaurant for dinner. At a small restaurant I tell the woman the food is mamahuhu (so-so), and she tells me she is the proprietor. My chance for miscommunication. Still, I am alone so she joins me and tries to strike up a conversation. She is friendly, bright, and personable, so we communicate by passing my dictionary back and forth. She even gives me some jiao (steamed dumplings) on the house.

Dec. 6: Dalian – The Great Wall rises out of the Bo Hai ("Big Sea") Gulf where it futilely tried to prevent the Manchus from invading. I take an early morning flight over the Gulf into the lower reaches of mountainous Manchuria. In 1894 China sent troops to the peninsula which juts out of this province to support the King of Korea against rebels, but they were beaten back by the Japanese who supported the rebellion. As a result, China ceded Taiwan and other real estate to Japan, who also gained Port Arthur south of Dalian in 1895. Tsar Nicholas II got it in 1898 (with the help of the French and Germans) and immediately built Russia’s dream port as well as a rail line into Russia which gave it control of Manchuria. The Japanese successfully battled Russia from 1902-1905, but the Soviet Union came back in 1945 and stayed in Port Arthur for ten years until Sino-Russian relations frayed. Today, Dalian is all business and the major port for China’s northeast provinces, and China’s second largest port only to Shanghai. It boasts being the first of the fourteen open coastal cities to offer attractive investment terms and, while claiming to be one of China’s most cosmopolitan cities ("Hong Kong of the North") and perhaps more expensive than even Shanghai. Teresa and the driver pick me up at the airport, and bring me to Dongbei ("Northeast") University of Finance & Economics where I check in to the campus hotel and eat lunch. In the afternoon, we drive along the rugged coast and stop to stroll at a few scenic spots, including the national hotel where all Chinese leaders have stayed. We also make it through the downtown area with its [Sun] Zhong Shan (Yat Sen) Square lined with old Russian-style buildings. We eat dinner at the campus hotel and I call it an early night.


[Leaving Home] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Settling in Shanghai] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Getting to Work] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Becoming Routine] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Western Contacts] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) ["National Day" Trip] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Meeting Folks] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Plenty to Eat] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Downtown] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [South by Southwest] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Socializing] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Dance Fever] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Exchanges] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Business Week] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [North by Northeast] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Computer Crash] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [The Good and the Bad] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Wrapping Up]

Rainbow

Copyright 1998 Paul Miesing. All rights reserved. Please do not use without permission unless in the People’s Republic of China which does not enforce intellectual property rights. Revised on January 17, 2001.