THE MODERN CONSTRUCT OF
|Leaving Chongqing and sliding gently down the river toward
Three Gorges Dam, one has the feeling that this city, so large
with its 31 million people, is both past and prologue to China.
Safe on the interiors of the country, it survived both World War
II and the Civil War between Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-Shek.
Then, for a time it remained gently moored in the history of
rural China, but China's recent investment in its national
infrastructure has begun to tie Chongqing to its rural edges, in
much the same way that the modernization of China has
radiated far beyond its borders.
Rail from Chongqing to Beijing is going to fall from 25 hours to
an easy 7; (greetings LA- SF); another runway is being added
to its airport (hello Los Angeles); nearly 6 billion dollars will be
invested to improve public water supplies (hi Sacramento); a
light-rail system will be completed by 2011 (alert LA).
So, as we head down the Yangtze, we are content to know that
Chongqing is both safe and prospering, and we can settle in to
enjoy some of the fashion looks of Chinese history.
Throughout our journey, we have been treated to extraordinary
entertainment: "The Legend of Kung Fu" in Beijing; in X'ian we
enjoyed a wonderful presentation of dress from various
dynasties; and now, we were treated on board, "Victoria Anna"
to another look at the fun and seriousness of fashion.
|One day, we enjoyed the show of the evening, the art of the foyer and the deep
pleasure of staying aboard while everyone else treked across the Yangtze and up
more steps to see a little village.
Crew members were the cast of the evening performances.
|To leave Chongqing and to arrive in Shanghai is an adventure both in
traversing geography and in sampling the explosive political/economic
changes in the culture of China. Westerners, long amazed that China had
not joined industrial modernization were seeing a reversal of will as Mao's
Cultural Revolution gradually eroded in the face of discontent, failure and
While still a founding national hero, and the first of his Dynasty, Mao's later
years were consumed, as is often true with emperors, with fear of
usurpation, anger at those who criticized him and a misuse of personal
power and authority that left the whole of China reeling.
To the credit of his party, new leadership found a way to a new path, a
strategy to both maintain the rigors of political control in the Chinese
Communist Party, and at the same time, to redefine the working ideology of
Chou en Lai, a graduate of Nankai High School in Tienjin (an important
lineage) put the first building block in play by opening China to a visit from
the American President Richard Nixon and by suggesting a new relationship
with the West. Chou's death, immediately followed by that of Mao, then let in
new Chinese leadership which has changed completely the country's
Deng Xiaoping, Chou's ally and successor as Premier, was able to
outmaneuver the political Gang of Four and replace Mao as Paramount
Leader. From that point forward, China has become a serious player in the
world of international finance, economic infrastructure improvement, water
manipulation, food production, oil/gas contracts and the all-important game
of balance of trade.
It's world market outreach has landed it huge options to the soybean crops
of Brazil, the oil of Angola and the trade of its goods supported by its
unrealistic devaluing of its currency, the Yuan. (7:1 dollars) China is now a
serious, major industrial nation in the world.
"Socialism with Chinese characteristics" is an official term for the economy
of the People's Republic of China. The state owns all land, much of which it
offers to farmers on a 70 year lease. That land must remain in farming,
although it can be passed on to family or even sold to other farmers.
Within its own planning concepts, it leases urban parcels for commercial
development, urban high rise apartments, industrial growth and
"Planning and market forces are not the essential difference between
socialism and capitalism. A planned economy is not the definition of
socialism, because there is planning under capitalism; the market economy
happens under socialism, too. Planning and market forces are both ways of
controlling economic activity."
Deng represented another generation of Party (Dynastic) leadership in China
and his efforts led to a spectacular explosion of "catch up" with the Western
World. Following his death in 1997, that new tone of "planning and market
forces working together" came under the direction of Premier Wen Jiabao.
A native of Tianjin, Wen Jiabao went to the famous Nankai High School from
which premier Chou en Lai graduated. According to his official biography,
he joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in April 1965 and entered the
work force in September 1967. By choice, much of his early work for the
Party centered on rural, low profile areas of the country; there Wen Jaibao
gleaned an enormous respect and appreciation for the difficulties of the rural
farmer, poor village residents and the fractures of the health care system.
He knows of what he speaks.
As premier, Wen has overseen the continuation of China's economic reforms
and has been involved in shifting national goals from economic growth at all
costs to growth which also emphasizes more egalitarian wealth, along with
other social goals, such as public health and education.
In addition, his government has begun to focus on the social costs of
economic development, which include damage to the environment and to
workers' health. This more comprehensive definition of development has
been encapsulated into a new view of a "Whole China".
Wen Jaibao's broad range of experience and expertise, cultivated while
presiding over agricultural policies, has been important as the "fourth
generation" seeks to revitalize the rural economy in regions left out by the
past two decades of reform.
Both the abolition of taxes on farmers and the infrastructure created around
Chongqing are examples of a new concern by the Party to reach out and
bring the rural reaches of China into a modern, healthy economic
Moreover, Wen Jiabao has brought into public conversation such issues
such as AIDS, environmental sensitivity, air and water quality, drug
trafficking and health care.
He speaks about subjects that have long been denied/ignored by China, and
while he makes no apologies for the nation's efforts to catch up to the
industrial strength of the West, it is notable that China's use of coal, so
widely criticized by some nations, is accompanied by cutting edge
technology to reduce pollution from its plants.
China has emerged in the past two years as the world’s leading builder of
more efficient, less polluting coal power plants, mastering the technology
and driving down the cost.
While the United States is still debating whether to build a more efficient kind
of coal-fired power plant that uses extremely hot steam, China has begun
building such plants at a rate of one a month, and while it has many
"outdated, polluting" coal burning plants in place, overall, it is reducing
pollution of air at a better rate than that of the U.S.
China has become the major world market for advanced coal-fired power
plants with high-specification emission control systems, and construction of
a new generation of low-pollution power plants that turn coal into a gas
before burning. In the United States, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the
Obama administration might revive one power plant of this type.
Things happen more quickly when one does not have to deal with recalcitrant
politicians, layers of court appeals and NIMBY obstacles. Yin/Yang.
Emperors always had a corps of bureaucrats to carry out their orders and to
protect them from public interaction. It was a rare event for the emperor to
ever be seen among ordinary people. Premiers of China are similarly
reluctant to interact with the general public though they make occasional
forays into foreign capitals on diplomatic missions.
But more recently, with the terrible earthquake in Sichuan Province, Wen
Jaibao, actually visited the site, commiserating with the survivors and
winning the hearts and minds of these rural people when he declared on
national television that the search for survivors was to go on for as long as
there was "a glimmer of hope".
Families who lost their child in the earthquake were quickly given permission
to replace that child, a significant gesture by the central government.
Clearly, there is a new vigor, a warming of energy and a cohesive sense in
China that it is on the move toward leadership in a world which measures
power by economic production, financial strength and resources and only
lastly, by military capability.
Shanghai brightly represents this Chinese journey. It is new, less that 150
years old; it is symbol of Chinese exploitation by the West following the
Opium Wars of the mid 19th century; its Bund presents to the public the
counting houses of an array of western nations who carved their little
enclaves out of China (Germany, Great Britain, France, Dutch and the United
And yet, when one travels along the Yangtze River front to look at the Bund,
what does one find directly across the street? A very large sculpture of Mao
reigning peacefully and with fatherly pride, as he overlooks a park. A look
across the Yangtze River and there is once again evidence of China emerging
triumphantly into the 21st century.
About 2.5 square miles of land has been cleared along the waterfront on both
sides of the Yangtze River in the heart of Shanghai. Construction is well
underway to host the 2010 World Expo wherein the economic power and
placement of China will be confirmed in the financial world, just as its people
and cultural achievements were displayed in the 2008 Olympics.
There is a new kid on the block.
|Of course, Shanghai is about far more than politics and world
financial balances. Here we were treated again to lovely cultural
expressions of both Chinese history and current Chinese
stagecraft. The Wu Garden was a place to relax, and in the evening,
we were treated to a performance of Chinese Acrobatics which kept
one's mouth open and eyes popping in amazement.
|Still, there is perhaps no better way to conclude this journey that to examine
that product which introduced China to the West, and for which the West
has been returning for centuries: SILK
Silk is traditional; it is unbreakable; it is a single thread of unusual quality; it
arrives as a by-product of organic development; it can be molded, sewn,
dyed, patterned and draped over every conceivable physical object and the
bodies of both fashion models and ordinary people.
As with China, it is an old product, constantly being reinvented to meet
changing demands. Beauty in its sheen masks a strength and resilience
which keeps it always at the forefront of world demand.
|A BRIEF ESSAY ON RECENT CHINESE DEVELOPMENT
|WORLD EXPO 2010 SITE
Constructed on 2.5 square miles in the heart of
Shanghai, mostly along the east bank of the Yangtze
River, it will be completed on time. The state owns
the land. No court fights. :-)
|BUND: ARCHITECTURAL STYLES FROM DIFFERENT EUROPEANN
COUNTRIES...BUT THE RED FLAG NOW FLIES ABOVE THEM ALL.
|WORLD EXPO 2010....PREPARATIONS ON WEST BANK
|SHANGHAI SKYLINE, LOOKING ACROSS THE YANGTZE
TOWARD THE EAST
|SILKWORM in pupa stage. In last glass, it has wrapped
its cocoon with silk thread which it disgorges from its
The smaller cocoon is that of a single worm; it takes 700
of these worms and their silk to make a single man's tie.
The larger cocoon contains two silkworms and the silk
thread of one is wrapped entangled with the other.
This entangled silk is good only for bedspreads,
parachutes, body armour, underwear and other "coarse"
goods because one cannot disentangle the two threads
from one another.
It takes 8000 "double" cocoons to make the 100 layers of
silk needed to make a blanket.
|HUI TOU JIAN
|ALL OF THESE LINKS BELOW WORK TELL A
LOT ABOUT THE MAKING OF SILK.