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China in the early 2000s


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abcdefg

Split from discussion here.

 

11 hours ago, imron said:

As someone who lived in China in the early 2000s, the reality of things back then wasn’t nearly like what people imagined either. 

 

What do you mean, @imron ? I don't doubt what you are saying, but could you expand on the observation a little. I arrived in 2006 for the first time (as a tourist.) Not sure what I imagined about China. Part of why I immediately liked it probably was that I didn't have many preconceptions. I discovered China on its own terms and wasn't trying to make it fit into some kind of preconceived mould. 

 

Had gone on a trip to Korea and Japan. Loved Korea, but hated Japan. Cut my Japan time short and flew to Beijing instead. Beijing was love at first sight. Resolved on the spot to find some way to come back. 

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Jan Finster
1 hour ago, imron said:
4 hours ago, Nick Fisher said:

the China you imagine as a 17 year old in the early 2000s is certainly not the China in reality in 2020.

As someone who lived in China in the early 2000s, the reality of things back then wasn’t nearly like what people imagined either. 

 

Please guys, open another topic on the romanticism or lack thereof of China in the 2000s. It is unfair, if you are just implying stuff and we have no idea what you mean 😆

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Meng Lelan

I was there far earlier, in 1980. No iPhones no cell phone no emails. Life was just life in simplest form. Citizens got up to exercise, all of them. I remember a college girl running for exercise in a gauzy dress, every morning at 6am. Then citizens got on bikes and buses and went to work and school then came home. Windows full of steaming dinner and light. Then I came back in 2000, I couldn't recognize it at all, and it seemed like a gradual shift into bland be-like-the-Western-world shift was happening. Little things that imron described. I didn't come back after that because the China I knew in the 1980s just wasn't there anymore. 

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Tomsima
1 hour ago, imron said:

people starting to say 钱 instead of 茄子 when taking photos,

I've never heard this before, only ever heard 茄子 and my first visit to China was 2008. maybe it was/is a Beijing thing?

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imron

I first heard it in Hebei, but yeah also Beijing. Not sure how widespread it’s use was, but it seemed at the time like everyone had started using it.
 

I hope its usage has gone away. 

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ChTTay
43 minutes ago, imron said:

hope its usage has gone away. 

Pretty sure it’s long gone. Never heard it in the last 8-9 years in Beijing and that includes a lot of posed photographs with classes of kids and parents 😂   It’s just 茄子 or saying something relevant to what you’re doing. Like sports day say something sports related. 

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ChTTay
1 hour ago, Meng Lelan said:

Citizens got up to exercise, all of them.

This is still sort of the culture for many University students but not so much early doors. At least when I attended Tsinghua all local students did was go to class, go to the library and play loads of sport. Basketball the most popular. 
 

I’d have liked to see China in the early 80’s but I wasn’t born yet. Even early 2000s would have been great but my family holidays were never that adventurous. 
 

what was the reaction to you like in the 80s? 

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Meng Lelan

The reaction to me, oh wow, I remember that. China had just opened up after the Cultural Revolution was over. Crowds converged all around me if I stood for one minute. Kids pointed to me crying out "waiguoren! waiguoren!". Individuals would touch my reddish hair. One time I went out with a Chinese friend who was deaf like me, we went shopping in a department store and we stopped to looked at an item we wanted to buy. It was just an ordinary soap and towel set I was looking for.  Right then a crowd of over a hundred people were surrounding us. Friend and I couldn't get through and leave. So the police came in to disperse them all.  I don't think this happened as much in 2000 when I came back. Not even sure if this happens anymore nowadays. 

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imron
1 hour ago, Meng Lelan said:

I don't think this happened as much in 2000

The only times a similar thing ever happened to me was once when I visited the very, very small hometown of a friend, and another time after disembarking from a boat across Qiandaohu on my way to Huangshan - both of them were in extremely isolated places where foreigners are not normally seen.

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ChTTay

 

3 hours ago, Meng Lelan said:

One time I went out with a Chinese friend...

Amazing story!  
 

I always remember watching this TV talk show host from the U.K. called Graham Norton go to China for a special. I think it was early 2000s. He did this bit where he put a stereo on the floor and just squatted down to look at it. More and more Chinese people came to look as well. They just stood behind him looking at him and his stereo. At that time I wasn’t sure if it was set up but having lived here I don’t think it was. 
 

Things have changed a lot even within my decade of experience here. I’ve been the first foreigner in a couple of villages. The first time was several years ago (2014 or 15?) and the kids were interested. They came and found me to shout “hello” and just look. The most recent time was around 2018. No one really cared too much. They would look if I was passing but it was just like they’d look at any non-resident coming in. No one sought me out or moved to get closer etc. A few family friends called round and it was very obviously to see me 😂 but they probably would have called round anyway at that time of year (CNY). 
 

In 2009 when I was here as a tourist I got a lot more attention. Lots of HELLOS! And “waiguoren” with people pointing. People walking backwards to look at me etc. This happened in Beijing and smaller places as well. In 2011 Yinchuan it was a similar experience. Pointing a lot. Moving seats to get a better view etc 

I think one reason for the change is that there are a lot more foreigners on TV now. Not only that but foreigners who speak Chinese broadcast themselves on 抖音 a lot as well. 

 

I met a chap in a gym back in the U.K. once who told me he was in Beijing in the 80s when some kind of protest or disturbances were going down (I just don’t remember what he said!). He said he and another foreigner got taken to a jail cell and given a case of beer. They got released the next day. No way to verify His story but he seemed sincere at the time. He didn’t speak Chinese and they didn’t speak English. I imagine it was “for your own safety”. 

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I worked based in a small town in a closed-to-foreigners county (because of its designated poverty status) in the late 1990s and could definitely draw a crowd out and about, though less so in the even more remote villages we actually worked in as I think people were more take as you find right down in the grassroots plus maybe something about knowing who we were and why we'd come.

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Jan Finster
10 hours ago, imron said:

and it was becoming harder and harder to overlook the drawbacks of living in China (pollution, food-safety etc), and I ended up leaving in 2009.

 

The great thing is that China is constantly changing and even though it is non-democratic, they still try to please the people and take care of them.  China is tackling the pollution, switching to e-bikes and e-cars and there is a movement towards greenifying cities (https://www.martincurrie.com/institutional/asia/focal-point/the-greenification-of-china). I am super curious what China is going to look and be like in 10-15 years. 

 

8 hours ago, Meng Lelan said:

I didn't come back after that because the China I knew in the 1980s just wasn't there anymore. 

 

This is the romanticism of the past.  😅 My father studied in Freiburg (Germany) in the 1960s.

Alte Ansichtskarten Postkarten von Antik-Falkensee Freiburg im ...

When he went back there in the 1990s for a visit, he was horrified that his little "Sound of Music"-style fairy town now has lost its charme. I lived there in the 2000s and it was still beutiful 😉

 

Schwabentor, Freiburg: schönste Sehenswürdigkeiten | Reisetipps 2020

 

 

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abcdefg
20 hours ago, Meng Lelan said:

Then I came back in 2000, I couldn't recognize it at all, and it seemed like a gradual shift into bland be-like-the-Western-world shift was happening. Little things that imron described. I didn't come back after that because the China I knew in the 1980s just wasn't there anymore. 

 

Such a huge change! I have to ask myself whether the China I grew to love during the last decade will still be there when the doors finally re-open after this crisis. 

 

Heraclitus: "You cannot step in the same river twice." 

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On 4/29/2020 at 3:45 AM, Jan Finster said:

China is tackling the pollution, switching to e-bikes and e-cars and there is a movement towards greenifying cities

China is trying to tackle the problem.  However, 山高皇帝远 (the hills are high and the emperor is far away) is in effect, i.e., Beijing says they want green energy, but provinces still want to grow their economies.  As other countries use less & less coal, it becomes cheaper and more economical to burn.  Provinces in China are building many coal-fired plants.  

 

At a talk on air pollution in China, an American audience member said, in a conceited manner, "well you know that China is doing an excellent job building green power facilities."  To which the speaker responded "yes, but they are doing an even better job building coal fired plants."  They are building many more coal-fired plants than energy based on green energy. 

 

In 3/2018, China's imports of "thermal coal" (used for energy production) were up 50% from the year before(!).  “China is still the driver” for global coal markets, said Wood Mackenzie analyst Zhai Yu. The country accounts for around one-fifth of global seaborne coal demand."  (WSJ  15 May 2018).  

 

Last October, China announced the opening of "the longest heavyload railway in the world" which will be mainly used to transport coal. "In 2020, the line is expected to carry 60 million tons of coal from North China to the central regions, according to the China State Railway Group."  https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201910/05/WS5d97d87fa310cf3e3556ecde.html   Notably, this is new transportation to meet future increasing coal demand.  

 

Hence, even though China's investments in green energy get much press, the (unfortunate) focus remains coal.  To see it from China's perspective, everyone wants electricity.  While China has pollution, it doesn't have brownouts.  In contrast, India has both pollution & brownouts.  I wouldn't want to live in a place where there are brownouts, coal is the cheapest way to provide electricity, so I can understand China's view on this.   

 

 

 

 

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Jan Finster
1 hour ago, Dawei3 said:

Hence, even though China's investments in green energy get much press, the (unfortunately) focus remains coal. 

 

Thank you for your post. This was informative. :)

 

I am a bit ashamed that Germany, even though it wants to be "green" is also still subsidizing coal mining.

And I only recently read that Australia was the biggest coal exporter in the world...

 

Way to go for all of us!

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abcdefg
1 hour ago, anonymoose said:

Of course foreigners speaking Chinese is much less unusual than it used to be, but I get the feeling that people also care much less about what is going on around them when their main focus of attention is in the palms of their hands.

 

I think this is huge. Used to be easy to strike up a conversation on a cross-city bus. Now it is so much less likely. Once I was reviewing small paper Hanzi flashcards on the bus. Three middle-school-age boys were watching closely. One finally asked what I was doing. I explained and then all three of them started "Practicing English." They asked the usual canned questions that "Practicing English" always seems to entail and I answered them patiently. (I am not usually so obliging, but they caught me on a good day.) When it was time for me to get off, one of the boys took off his red "Mao kerchief" (红领巾 -- Young Pioneers) and handed it to me as a token of thanks. 

 

772920567_redscarf-900px.thumb.jpg.da4dca827c2e96720398b5c492c0b30a.jpg

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Jan Finster
20 hours ago, Meng Lelan said:

I was there far earlier, in 1980.

 

That must have been mind-blowingly different than it is now. I just remembered this picture of Shanghai 1990 and today:

 

Shanghai.png

 

You were there 10 years before the picture on the top😲

 

 

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