Saturday, May 10, 2008

City on Steroids (or Country on Steroids?)

I just finished watching a really interesting documentary on It's about Chongqing's (Chongqing is one of China's mega cities) rapid development and I think it reflect a 'movement' that is taking place at many cities in China today. Peasants are travelling into the cities in order to find work, so that they can earn money and send back to their families on the country side. At the same time, the unemployment rate in the city is high, and while the peasants are the people behind all the new buildings that are shooting up, the young, wealthier people, who eventually are those moving into all those new buildings, have little or none understanding for migrant workers, and simply think they cause problems because they lack in terms of education....

This sort of documentary leaves you with mixed feelings: you feel for the peasants that are working so hard for so little and basically are the people who are giving China new looks and shapes, and at the same time you feel a twinge of worry about the fact that China might be developing too fast. The building boom in Chongqing is over the top; in the next 10 years they are planning to make room for another 4 million people in the city (a city that already has a population of 12 million people -still many people in the world have never even heard about Chongqing!). At the same time, the price of pork (for instance) is steadily getting higher, due to less people being willing to live on the country side and raise pigs. Although people are aware of this, I don't think anything will change until maybe when inflation hits its peak, and then....yeah, what then? With China moving their population into the cities in order to create 'better living conditions' for them, I find it hard to imagine what it will be like when you have a country of megacities and a decreasing number of farmers.

When I say the documentary reflects a 'movement' taking place in China I mean that what is happening in Chongqing seems to be happening at a lot of places in China. Just take south China's Yunnan province for instance. I went there in 2006 and was amazed of how Kunming (the capital city of Yunnan) was booming, at the same time as I was surprised and disappointed of how little there was left of 'the old China'. (I feel the current correspondent Adam is experiencing the same feeling when he is in Chongqing) But after a 2 hour drive to Yuxi, a city known for its tobacco trade, where I visited a volunteer group called YID (Yunnan Institute of Development) and went with them to some mountain villages (about ½ a day's drive from Yuxi) the gap between new and old (also now referred to as 'rich and poor' China) stung me in my eyes. At these villages people have nothing. The yearly income is 500 kuai. The children are not growing properly due to malnutrition, and so on. Still, when I was there, families were all smiles and would invite us to their homes for dinner and tea.

This is also China. But when u watch documentaries like the one about Chongqing it's hard to even think these sort of situations can take place in the same country. I don't know how I feel about China's eagerness to build and construct mega city after mega city, but regardless of what I think, it is currently happening, all over the place, Chongqing being one of them. If anyone's interested to watch the doco, this is the link:

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