What things come to mind when we think about China?
Different things to different people, I suppose. Some people will conjure up a picture of china crockery featuring scenes from the daily life of Chinese people, beautiful lacquerware, others – green tea, still others – the all-powerful business and new technologies (if you’ve guessed I’m in the latter group you’ve guessed right). There are also those who nurse old stereotypes similar to those that shaped the views of many Europeans several decades ago about German or Japanese products. Where stereotypes hold sway, the truth is irrelevant. Absurd as it may sound today, such people operate in a world where the words Made in China are a designation of (bad) quality.
What is China really like?
I admit I have got into this reflective mood after a recent trip to China, so I want to share some experiences with you. Yes, what is China like? Well, there is no other way of putting it: China is simply great! It is a country where we constantly encounter its rich past and admire its current dynamism, a country that holds the viewer spellbound with its natural and technological wonders, a country where the past and the present, tradition and modernity coexist and are closely interwoven.
China is a country of diversity.
It is a country of harmony.
Diversity is the word because there is no such thing as one China. China is both a rural countryside and a sprawling metropolis, with streets that can run for over one hundred kilometres (Beijing taxi drivers have basic familiarity only with the immediate vicinity of where they operate, which is not surprising given that the city has 20 million people – more than half the population of Poland!). China gives house room to the familiar drab social realism architecture in the country’s capital and to the gleaming skyscrapers of Shanghai, to the fantastically-preserved Xi’an wall built by the Ming dynasty (which will literally take you back to medieval China), wonderful monastic gardens around the Wild Goose pagoda, and dazzling business districts in big cities. Finally, China means the treasures and the majesty of nature, a country which is doubtless home to every type of landscape that can be seen elsewhere on the planet.
So that is China – the vision it conjures up compels the observer to wander through the ages and vast open spaces. Where does modernity come into all of this? Well, the world’s biggest liquid crystal display measuring 7.5 thousand square metres in the centre of Beijing (the erection of which cost a mere 32 million dollars!) is as good a symbol of modern China as any.
It is a challenge itself to comprehend the future direction in which China is going, a future into which the Chinese government is pouring money (3% of China’s GDP is spent on R&D, which means that the Middle Country has caught up with the United States), as is every usually one-child Chinese family. It is noteworthy that, in a country inhabited by well in excess of one billion people, competition for the best education money can buy starts in early years. Universities are places for top talent, so enormous weight is attached to education. The results – as shown by research – leave no one in doubt: the number of Chinese children with a very high IQ is much higher than the number of all children in the United States. It will come as no surprise then that, unlike in many other countries, teachers are thought to hold prestigious jobs for which they are handsomely rewarded.
So, again, that is China, or rather my inept portrayal of China which hides the desert sands, the snow-capped mountain tops, the rice paddies, the great rivers (which deserve the distinction of being called mothers of the Chinese civilisation) and countless other things, each deserving not of one portrait but of whole galleries. But even this modest picture is enough to understand how distant China is from some of the most common associations. Not to mention some of the stereotypes!
The world’s biggest and most heart-stopping liquid crystal display I’ve mentioned can be in seen in many amateur videos by going to:
Basic information about China’s system of education: