IE, to roll over and catch up on sleep after long travel.
But glad to be back and looking forward to sharing some impressions and pics. A few preliminary thoughts (and one announcement about a cool upcoming event).
–Obviously, you can’t summarize China, or any other country, in a bullet point, but if I had to do so, I’d say: beautiful, crowded, hot, historical, and in a world of increasing homogeneity, still really unique.
–One of the biggest challenges, which I really enjoyed though it often led to frustration, is the language barrier. Google translator helps a lot (though see next bullet), but just going out to buy contact solution turned out to be an adventure, including people drawing maps that made as much sense to me as the Laffer Curve. I’m proud to say I learned about five words in Mandarin that could be reliably understood, after some initial laughter.
–The Great Firewall–the Chinese blockage of parts of the internet–is really unfortunate. Google, Twitter, much more are behind it, though VPNs, allowable for visitors, get around it. But it was a potent reminder of the extent of government control.
–Another eg of that last point: I read the China Daily everyday over there (good bit of free advice: always wake up in new places by reading their newspaper). It’s fascinatingly different from what we’re used to here. Basically, almost every column is scrubbed to be upbeat about what a great job the government is doing to deal with the challenges facing the country.
–And, in fact, there are many signs of precisely that. The bullet train system is a marvel and WAY past ours. We took many long, beautiful, fast, comfortable, reliable train rides through gorgeous country. The amount of resources they’re throwing at infrastructure is in-your-face obvious. Even small’ish towns–which means 3 million over there–have train stations that look like new airports here.
–At least in the cities and towns, i.e., all but the rural areas (though I think this goes on there too), they set the unemployment rate where they want it (very low) through direct job creation. Broadly speaking, able-bodied people have to work and most are given very low-level jobs like street cleaners. This means, btw, that you don’t see litter on the streets. Readers know I’ve been thinking about applying direct job creation over here to solve persistent pockets of unemployment, so I found this interesting, revealing, and generally positive.
–The people we met were great and often willing to try to help us. I already did so, but I plan to significantly ramp up my efforts to help confused, international tourists here. That said, there is less cultural stigma in China attached to intensely staring at and apparently commenting on strangers with big noses.
Ok, much more to come once I’m back among the living. Big bonus points for anyone who can identify where the photo below was taken.
Oh, about that cool event: on July 27-29, I’ll be participating in KentPresents, an ideas festival in Kent, CT. I’ll be on panels with Paul Krugman and many other stars of the field discussing health care, inequality, global econ, and more. If you’re around please show up and say “hi!”