Having known China from the policy briefs I encounter and decipher from the dossiers of the Department of Foreign Affairs while on my graduate study program in Foreign Service from the Lyceum of the Philippines University, what I have seen upon stepping on my first historic visit to China made me want to uncoil what I have been bombarded with and retrace the steps before I have come to some pertinent conclusions as a graduate student in early 2001.
The China that I used to know was perennially poor, all-too rigid and people are stiff. All my perspective of China was all gray and black. Never as colourful and always with a tinge of strictness and the Chinese people are very much akin to its militaristic past but all these were proven wrong. I was wrong and what I have seen and lived in my entire stay in China completely erased my previous notion of what China is today.
Since day one, when we arrived in Guangzhuo, all the place and people were abuzz with the upcoming Asian Games. You can see flyers and tarpaulins heralding the coming of the Asian Games and even our official airline, the China Southern Airline is the official airline for the Asian Games is continuously playing the advertisements about the games in-flight and the crew on board are as friendly as most I have met on my travels overseas. It has never retained in me that one Chinese person I have met that resembles what my previous preconception of them. All of them were smiling and full of happy spirits. This is very unlike what I have read about human dynamics in the past during the times in 1948 and those of Chairman Deng Xiaoping. I say the Chinese people now have immense confidence on their government and how they have lived their lives in the new millennia.
Upon arriving past 10 in the evening in Guangzhuo, China, I have had the urge to eat late dinner and what an immense impression again was left in my mind. China has KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks and mostly western-styled conglomerates which are the hallmarks of commercialism and to a farthest extent, imperialism. I observed that while we were eating snacks or meals in these establishments, all crew were able to speak few English, another hallmark of the west. Call that globalized linguistic parallelism in which workers, in order to converse well and be understood, adapt to the universality of the language currency. Even Japan and Korea are best examples of this phenomenon.
When we were in China for the China-ASEAN Young Leaders Training, I was expecting nonetheless, of immense exposure to rural areas, where traditional houses of peasants and the vestiges of rural poverty is well around the corner but again, I was wrong. We had been housed comfortably in the China Guangxi International Youth Exchange Institute. The rooms were like of a 5-star hotel, replete with centralized airconditioning unit, cold and hot showers with tub, clean linens, comfy pillows and carpeted floors from the hallway up to our rooms. Even the room key cards are highly technological, of which most hotels in the Philippines will be pale in comparison.
The classes we have had in China were held in well-maintained lecture and academic halls where microphones and interpreters on stand by. We have felt we are somewhere in the West, very much unlike what we have seen to be in China but again, we were wrong. I was wrong. I experienced all the comforts we have had while having our academic lectures. Again, what we have seen there is nowhere to be found near to even the University of the Philippines.
The most distinct impression on me was on the several occasions we audience during the China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Nanning, Guangxi. It was where we have seen China economically, outside the confines of the lectures we have received from esteemed Chinese economists and scholars. I have seen how China was and is continually ready to do business regionally and bilaterally with the Philippines and Cambodia . We have seen Chinese businessmen undertaking linkages and networking with visiting investors in the Hall of the People in Guangxi, the venue of the CABIS. I have seen them share a cigarette and talk business. This is not strictly politics but rather strictly and formally business.
On our trip to Beijing, I have observed how China is micro-managing inter-regional and sub-regional migration among Chinese. At the Nanning Domestic Airport up until we have arrived in Beijing, I observed that the immigration counters are busy perusing internal and external travel documents of people from place to other. To my interpretation, this has been done to ferret out legitimate workers from those who will only a burden to progressive cities. If you have a skill in China, then you work and get employed. Many constructions of buildings and houses were impressively high and robust. This indicates how the Chinese economy is forever booming amidst the Asian economic crisis and the impending fall of the Euro currency and the economic meltdown in Europe.
While in Beijing, I have seen how busy streets are and how the economy is helping people help themselves.
The Bird’s Nest speaks of the grandeur that is of China today. I need not elaborate as mostly of us, have seen and witnessed the 2008 summer Olympics.
In a visit to Guilin City, I was fascinated at how the river cruise has served both local and international tourists, but mostly, local tourists. The government has been successful in integrating local tourism to the international appeal of Guangxi amidst its most popular destinations like Xiamen, Shanghai and Beijing.
A visit to a county in Guilin City left me awe-struck. I was impressed at how paved their roads were leading to their already concrete houses of peasants who were growing pomelo and small varieties of melons. I am further impressed at the fact that the same county we visited hosted to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and even the President of an African country and some delegations from Japan. It’s a complete presentation of what a society can gain if we cooperate with each other especially in agriculture and food production. That same county is by a large extent, producer of Chinese marble, very much priced in China.
Upon my return to the Philippines, I was left wanting. I want to know China more. Wanted to taste how local their lives are and experience firsthand how the Chinese people respond to adversity, challenges, trials and potential hiccups in the economy. I wanted to do research in its academic institutions and see how elementary pupils get education. I wanted to see more of the countryside and learn how peasants cooperate for progress. I wanted to see how they do business all the time, daily and on time. But some experiences has to momentarily end. I say I have come back to reality in the Philippines and ask myself, how can we always do business and how our government can better respond to our collective and societal dreams. This made me think if one thing needs to be reformed or perhaps transformed in our manner of dealing with the economy, governance, public service and basically, how individually we can help our country grow.
My experiences in China not only corrected my wrong views of China in its entirety but also opened my eyes at how poorly we are managed even in our proud democracy. It has dampen my own perspective of how this Republic can ever withstand the growing demands of a poor population and addressing the gnawing pressures of poverty which for years have not been appropriately addressed. I am impressed of China but remain hopeful for the Philippines.