Saturday, 24 January 2009

Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China

I'm reading this great book by Duncan Hewitt at the moment. It's called "Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China". I'm reading the UK softcover version but I imagine the US version is pretty much the same, bar a different cover and ISBN.

I've only just started reading it but I think it is one of the most fascinating books I've read recently, or maybe because the topic is so close to my heart that's why I find it so fascinating?

There are only 3 reviews on Amazon and they all give it 5 stars. You can read the first 6 pages on Amazon but I'll post some more tidbits here:


"Sometimes I sit in the café of the Shanghai IKEA - the largest in Asia, or at least it was until they opened an even bigger one in Beijing - and gaze out at the cars, taxis and trucks speeding past on the three levels of elevated highway, and the overhead light railway snaking between them, before disappearing past the 80,000 seat sports stadium into the shadow of the ranks of tower blocks behind. And I can't hep wondering, how did this all happen so fast? Can this city of four thousand high-rises and two million cars really be the same slow-paced town of tree-lined streets, dawdling cyclists and low, European-style houses which I first visited as a student just two decades ago, when the hotel across the highway from IKEA was not just another nondescript concrete block, overlooked on all sides by newer, shinier buildings, but the newly built pride of the city, a palace which seemed to have been transported to this semi-rural suburb as if from another world?...

...For an outsider, there's a certain privilege in observing a process which is undoubtedly history in the making. But it can be exhausting too. In 2002-3, I decided I wanted to take a break from working as a journalist in China, and spend some more time in Europe. I soon discovered that the pace of the nation's opening to the outside world meant that having a break from China was no longer so easy. The flight to London was filled with Shanghainese teenagers setting off for summer courses in England; on the streets of English tourist towns, it was suddenly common to hear Mandarin being spoken, and to find young mainlanders working in menial jobs. An English football team, Everton, was now sponsored by a Chinese electronics company. In a bathroom shop in the south of England, the manager explained somewhat apologetically that almost all his products were now made in China. In a family-run umbrella business in Belgium, meanwhile, the owner talked sadly of how the company was about to close its hundred-year-old workshop and start selling the far cheaper products being imported from China. There were Chinese tour groups on the streets of Brussels, and Chinese vendors selling trinkets on the streets in Geneva. And after a long cable-car journey up a Swiss mountain, the staff in the mist-shrouded restaurant at the top turned out to e from Changchun in China's north-east, and Guangdong in the south..."

In the 'The 'me' generation' chapter (which I quickly skipped to) it talks about kids and teenagers growing up in a New China, which, frankly, isn't too different to kids growing up in the West.

"...They may spend more time with their grandparents when they're very young, but once they're older, children are increasingly likely to be living on their own with their parents, at least in the cities, where China's tradition of the extended family unit residing together is rapidly breaking down. And with parents likely to be working longer hours than in the days of the planned economy, children are often left to their own devices. As an official at the Child Protection Department of the Shanghai Education Commission once told me: 'During the process of modernising, people's way of life, the pace of life, and the way they communicate their feelings are all changing. And the exchange of ideas between parents and children, for all kinds of reasons, is not as great as it used to be.' It was important to organise more out-of-school leisure activities, he said, 'to fill in some gaps in terms of loneliness or lack of interpersonal contact with have been created by rapid modernisation. By 2006, Chinese state television started showing public service announcements calling on parents to spend more time with their children...

...There's no doubt that many of the younger generation do spend a lot of time online. It's hardly surprising, given that the education system often encourages them to do so. In Shanghai, for example, by the early years of this decade every nine-year-old was, in theory, being taught to use the Internet. And it's not only the well-off youth in the big cities: in almost every medium-sized town in China there are Internet cafés packed with young people until late at night. For some the net provides a chance to communicate and make new friends. But others have become hooked on online games (perhaps it's no coincidence that the world's largest online gaming company, Shanda, is Chinese). In recent years youth organisations and hospitals in several Chinese cities have opened treatment centres for teenagers addicted to the Internet. And youth experts worry that excessive introversion among the young generation is contributing to a growth in delinquency, even violence. These are still less common in China than in many western societies..."

Then it goes on to talk about pop culture and media influences, particularly from Japan.

If it sounds interesting to you, go check it out!

No comments: