Xiaosui cooked three great dishes last night, the recipes will follow soon. I thought given the events on the NY stock exchange, the following could be of interest - Graeme Mills (husband of Xiaosui)
"Tai gui le - Too expensive".
Those were the first Chinese words I used. I had walked out of the customs area at GuangZhou airport and was an obvious mark for the helpful young men who descended on me. One led me off with much gesticulating and obvious heartfelt concern for my well-being. The asking price for helping to negotiate around 60 metres was 100 Yuan. I did not know if that was too expensive but I did know that all prices had to be negotiated, so I negotiated. He looked crestfallen, as if I had insulted his mother, grandmother and a string of ancestors. I probably just looked confused. Hence the final price was 60 yuan, which was probably three times as much as I should have paid.
On time, 99% of the time. Dream on. The one announcement burned into my psyche is along the lines of , rattle, squawk, static, we regret to inform you that flight CS - 983 to Nanning has been delayed. They pack many more people into Chinese domestic aeroplanes. I got an un-interrupted view of the cabin wall, while resting my knees in my ears.
On the flight into GuangZhou I saw how a country could accommodate 1.4 billion people. They do it in countless high-rise apartment blocks. I was intrigued to see farmers working the land beside the airport and in and about the high-rise apartments and factories. That was to become a feature of China for me: the 21st Century beside millennia of tradition - poverty side by side with wealth.
In the West we rely on fossil fuels to plant and harvest our food and transport it to where the population is. In China, they rely on labour to a far greater extent do the same thing (though that is obviously changing, see the price of oil). Hence, if there is a major oil shock, the industrial capacity of China will be affected, but they will still be able to feed themselves, basically. How will we do that in the West, since we cannot even plant the crops, let alone have the widespread knowledge to do so? I am not a doom-sayer, indeed I am optimistic about the [re]emergence of China. However, I know which world leaders will be more relaxed about a world oil shock in the short term.
My China experience is not travelling and sightseeing, it is not going from doss house to doss house and living on noodles, it is not travelling on public transport (though I did go on an extended overnight train journey to KunMing, of which I will regale you with tales of woe and discomfort later), it is not business, it is not teaching. It is fitting into the heart of a Chinese family and a close network of friends in a small Chinese city largely un-influenced by the west. Indeed, I have only met two Europeans. When I am in China, I live in an apartment in the centre of the city beside a lake in the city of Nanning.
Nanning is located about 250 north of the Vietnamese border. It has always been the trading city between China and Vietnam and still is. It hosts a major Expo each October for SE Asia and is looking to become a hub for SE Asian commerce. Like all cities in China, it is constantly evolving and growing with apartment blocks springing up like the proverbial mushrooms.
On my last stay, as I was being driven around, rather alarmingly, I could not help thinking to myself that if the people in America are wondering where all their money has gone, I can tell them. It has and is being used to build high-rise buildings and factories in China.
I think of America and China as two houses side by side. America had built a large mansion and tended its gardens very well, growing food and flowers. Beside it was a small mud hut with the land being inefficiently tilled. Then the people in the mud hut started to make clothes for the rich people next door, who soon forgot how to make their own clothes. Then the people in the mud hut built a second mud hut and asked the people in the rich mansion if they could help them set up a factory and show them the technology to make widgets, of which the people in the rich mansion where particularly fond and which were a real pain to make. Best of all, the people in the mud hut could make the widgets for less and less money. And, although widgets only had a limited life, that was OK, since they could keep on buying them from the people in the mud hut for ever and ever, cheaper and cheaper. There was obviously no need for the people in the rich mansion to ever work again; the people in the mud hut would do it for them. And so on and so on. However, the people in the rich mansion soon found that without working they could not buy widgets, or clothes. So rather than work, they first spent their savings, which didnít take long, since they were very meagre indeed. Then they persuaded their friendly central bank to print lots of money and being devilishly clever, they paid for the widgets with bits of paper. Ha Ha Ha, sucks on you Chinese. BUT! those little bits of paper were still real claims on the wealth of the Rich Mansion.
Over time, the people in the rich mansion not only gave all their money to the people in the mud hut and told them how to make just about everything, they, rather than work, borrowed money to purchase their widgets from the people in the mud-hut who all the time were very polite and smiled a lot, while reading Sun Tzu, 'The Art of War'.
Now, in 2008, the people in the rich mansion - which is starting to need some maintenance, I gotta tell you - are in effect renting from the people in the mud hut who have watched in amusement as this young nation full of hormones goes around the world fighting everyone and throwing its wealth away. 'The Art of War' counsels that you should never extend your lines or dissipate your strength on far away battles, and that the nation that does will surely lose the war.
I use the references to 'The Art of War' in an economic tactical and strategic sense not a military sense. China is certainly not looking for a war (in the western sense) with any county. Well, possibly with the exception of Taiwan ... in the fullness of time ... when it is propitious .Ö. when the people in the rich mansion are fixing their leaking roof.
Now, courtesy of Mr and Mrs Lehnam, the people in the rich mansion are bankrupt and the people in the mud hut are eyeing off the rich mansion. I wonder how the people from the rich mansion will go living in the mud hut?