I have now been here for 4 days and I must admit I know little more about China now than when I came. I am writing this just before I set off for my 30 hour journey home. Who says that foreign travel is exciting?!
I have learned that Scousers get everywhere. The Executive chef in this hotel
Is one of us and his Dad still lives in Walton. I have learned that in this communist country they celebrate Christmas. I sat down to breakfast this morning to the sounds of ‘Deck the halls”, and ‘Silent night”. I mused with some Ozzie mates whether or not they have any idea that some of the tunes they heard were Christian hymns.
I have just been for a walk and am astounded by the pace of development. Within 30 minutes I walked past more than 40 apartment blocks being constructed and about 20 more that were either entirely empty or had just a few people living in the. I passed shopping centres and other facilities built but not occupied. In total that must mean 12,000 apartments and room for 30,000+ people. I wonder how long it will take for them to fill them and create communities here.
The attention given to us by local people was amazing. The hotel staff could not do enough for us. More than 1,000 student volunteers helped us around every corner and every obstacle. But clearly foreigners, particularly those from outside this part of Asia are a rarity. Even at the international airport the vast majority of travellers were Chinese. In Haikou itself people stopped to look at us not because they were being rude but because we looked and acted differently.
I spent some looking at trade links. I think the UK and Liverpool strategies are wrong. Far, far too much emphasis is being place on them investing in us and far, far too little on us investing in them. At some of the presentations that I heard there was almost a begging bowl approach. Please come and invest in us we need you. If the opportunities in the UK such as Liverpool Waters are so good why doesn’t the British banking and commercial system invest in them. I do fear that what we are are seeing is cheap Chinese money being used to acquire European assets which will, in the long-term be highly profitable. Are we seeing the colonialism by capitalism of the People’s Republic of China.
Of course they have real problems with growth as we do. Their growth has slipped from 7.8% per year to 7%. Ours has gone up to about 3%! But in some ways given the low levels of personal GDP in China and the still increasing population they might have more severe problems than we do. The is certainly a massive gap between the middle classes and the workers. Some of the living conditions for workers building the new apartment blocks were revolting. Presumably there are also the uber-rich around but I did not meet them!
Perhaps though the thing I learned here as I learn everywhere I go is that people are basically the same. I met Chinese Mayors striving with the same desire to improve basic living conditions as their counterparts from around the world. I met mums who like every other mum had as their first interest the education and health of their children. Whether you live under communist or democracy of rule the vast majority of people just want to get on with their lives, have a decent place to live, a decent job and a healthy life style.
This planet has all the resources that we need to enable all the population to live in peace and reasonable prosperity. It’s just that we don’t share those resourced properly or look after them sustainably. I am committed to internationalism and to the work I do with United Cities and Local Government because I believe that in my own small way I can make a contribution to these sharing and sustainability goals.