Surprising

Not having visited China for several years, my primary image of the country has been formed by Western media. After my visit, what impressed me most was how much it had modernized, albeit in a very Westernized definition of the term. Behind the cultural customs is, at least now, a country that has seen incredible growth and remarkable transformation. This is nothing new; this is exactly what Western media reports and has been reporting. The Shanghai Pudong International Airport, for instance, has modern, striking lines and an open atmosphere, something arguably unconceivable maybe a half-century ago in this ancient country.

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However, a lingering question, not so cleanly addressed and not so conspicuously under consideration: will it all last?

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Surprising

Old

In the face of an ever- and quickly-changing business climate, it’s easy to forget just how old China is as a civilization. Even though on its surface China appears fresh and adaptive, beneath the facade is a culture that has weathered storms. Indeed, the contrast of ages doesn’t take long to show itself in China: I stood watching the only unobstructed sunset I saw on my trip from a new building, looking out over a slowly darkening sky and old apartments below.

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Old

Hectic

My first post about China was about the calm parts of the trip — quiet moments where I could enjoy my surroundings or ponder my growing unfamiliarity with Mandarin. Typically, this gave way to a far more bustling and intrusive realization about my native country. There is a sense of raw energy when traveling around China that isn’t as ubiquitously prevalent in the US or even Europe; it’s urgency and claustrophobia and anxiety and curiosity and ambition all stirred into one giant hotpot.

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Hectic