My first impression of china was one of surprise. When preparing for the trip, I was preparing to come to a communist country that I thought would be very different then our own. What I arrived to was a city most like any other I have visited. Apart from the language barrier, there is little difference between Shanghai and New York or San Diego. All the buildings seemed very much like they belonged in the States. The only buildings that struck me as different were those that the Europeans build after establishing themselves following the opium war. I saw very little that suggested communism, everything seemed to revolve around a very open, capitalistic market.
One big difference from the states was very noticeable on the roads. The Chinese are crazy drivers. No one obeys the street signs or lights, driving lanes are just a suggestion and pedestrians are left to fend for themselves as cars will not stop for them. People are very fashionable here. They all seem to be wearing clothes that have very high end brand names on them like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. We will see how the rest of the trip goes.
After traveling to other parts of China I came to see that the only real city that looked like it belonged in the States was Shanghai. While the rest were also growing cities, they had a different feel and look about them that was innately Chinese. And while I still believe that they have a very capitalistic market, in some ways more capitalistic than the States, this does not make the country democratic. When trying to access the internet I found that many sites are blocked such as Facebook and others that may allow harmful opinions to spread rapidly. One of our tour guides explained to us that, while the government has gotten better at letting people express themselves, it still has not progressed to the point where people are allowed to bad talk the government. They may make complaints about specific issues that they would like to see improve, but they may not be openly against the people in leadership roles or the Communist party. Some other students staying in the same hotel as us told of a couple of people arrested in Tien An Men Square for trying to give out flyers. The fliers were immediately collected so no one could see what was on them. One positive effect of the Communist party I did notice was the lack of religion in politics. Because the Communist party takes the stance that there is no God, I found many younger people take the stance of atheism and those practicing religion such as Buddhism were doing it as a cultural tradition rather than an actual belief.
Overall I very much enjoyed my time in China and would really like to go back. I see a ton of opportunity for business there. It has mainly been used as a place to find cheap labor so far and exploited by the manufacturing industry but the people are ready to be catered to as a real consumer base. As wages continue to rise the manufacturing becomes less relevant and the people are open to more luxuries rather than just the necessities. Most of the businesses I saw there had no real concept of cost avoidance and efficiency. I believe that people with knowledge in the business world could make a killing selling at lower prices while enjoying higher profit margins. China is already known by all as a world player but they are close to rivaling the States and since most all of them spoke no English, I suggest we start brushing up on our Mandarin.
I had never once thought about going to China until I decided to go on this trip. I tried to get information about modern Chinese culture from anyone that would tell me. From the information I got, I thought that China was going to have shoulder to shoulder crowding on the sidewalks in the cities to the point I’d be pushing people out of my way. And the cities would go into rural areas as soon as we were outside of city lines. I thought venders would be aggressive in their sales going as far to take the money out your pocket to show you that you have enough to afford their product. I thought I was going to have to avoid using the tap for anything in any circumstance and that I wasn’t going to have toilet paper anywhere unless I brought it. The most terrifying thing was being told that I would be hated for being an American and I should avoid letting people know where I was from at all costs. The more information I got from people, the more apprehensive I got about actually being in China.
When I got to Shanghai I behaved to adapt to these fears at first. I boiled all my water even for washing. I stayed close to the group for fear of getting lost in a sea of people. I kept my money close to me and tried not to be interested in any products so venders wouldn’t harass me. I learned how to say “I’m Canadian” in Chinese just in case I was asked. But after the first day and a half I started to take in what China really was. The sidewalks weren’t that crowded and it was easy to stay with my group without being right next to them. The venders didn’t touch me, though I still keep my money close. I I washed with the tap and I told people that I am an American. I have yet to get sick or have a rash from the water and no one has spit on me for being from the States; they actually seem quite a bit more interested in me.
I think the transition from this nervous foreigner to an integrated tourist was the fact that Shanghai is so modern. It’s like being in New York. The buildings are high and they decorate the skies with lights at night. Though Shanghai is a lot cleaner than New York. There is rarely gum on the streets and the people are really courteous to others by doing things like not smoking in public places. The traffic is just as bad in New York, but much more terrifying. There is constant honking going on all day and night. The sound quickly becomes both your lullaby and your alarm clock. After exploring the city and soaking up a small portion of the daily life of someone who lives in Shanghai I see just how western Shanghai really is. There is such small difference between Shanghai and American cities there are really only two things Americans need to do to adapt; boil your drinking water and carry toilet paper.
When I first came to China I thought it was nothing like my expectations; Shanghai had been just like an Asian New York. However, after we started to travel I got to see how different China is. Because it’s so large there’s no way to give just an overall thought about China. In its own way China is diverse because there are so many minorities in the Chinese culture which add to the experience. It wasn’t until I got to Beijing that I found the China portrayed in the minds of Americans; the China that has high air pollution and heavily populated sidewalks. Every other place was not as densely populated and the air was just fine.
The one thing that could be said about every place we visited is there is a large amount of pride and even competition among the cities. Everywhere we went things were the tallest, the biggest, and the thing that seemed to be the most important, the oldest. It was as if having the oldest things made the place the most valuable to the country. Each city tried to have the claims to the best things. Shanghai claimed to be the fastest growing, not that I can really disagree from what I hear. Zhouzhong was the most beautiful water village, the “Venice of the orient.” Xi’an and Luoyang seemed to compete for being the ancient city of China. Chengdu had the best changing face and of course the Panda base. And Beijing has the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.
China is a fast moving prideful country and I can now see why people are afraid of the competition China will give to America, but it is obvious that they still have some growing to do before we are to get worried. China learns from the west, if America could learn from China we wouldn’t have to worry about the competition as much, we’d have the best of both worlds quickly.
We could really take to China’s recycling habits. There are trash and recycling bins all over. They give no excuse for you to litter and dirty their cities. As big or small the cities are they are rarely dirty. The hotels have slots to put in your keycard so you have power. I think this would help save energy if we practiced this in America. It’d make things a bit harder, but it’d make life a bit cheaper in the long run. We can also stand to have more meals as a family at tables with a lazy susan. It makes it easy to have dinner conversation and allows for more variety of tastes.
Overall I think China is a beautiful place with many diverse landscapes and people. I expected a large difference between the behaviors of the Chinese and the Americans, but honestly the culture wasn’t that hard to get used to. I love it here and I wouldn’t mind living here one day.
I have been to China before so I have already had an impression of my own. I was in Chengdu for six weeks in the summer of 2011. I experienced what it was like to live in China. It is very crowded yet life is very simple. Being in China as a foreigner is quite different however. People will stare at you because they are so curious and not used to seeing foreigners. They are also surprised to learn I speak Chinese. Coming to China this time, I expected similar experiences. However, I had never been to Shanghai, so some things were a bit different.
I have heard Shanghai is one of the more modern Chinese cities and China overall is becoming more westernized. However, upon arriving in Shanghai, I did not expect to still seem like I was in America. Besides the Chinese billboards and advertisements, the skyline was full of skyscrapers similar to that of New York. The main difference I found is that there is such an enormous amount of people in China. Everywhere you look, you can see crowded sidewalks. The streets are filled with cars, public busses, bikes, motorcycles, and pedestrians. Driving is absolutely insane! Yet no one seems distraught. People just work together.
I was very surprised to see as many foreigners as I did. Shanghai is a large tourist city, so it makes sense. It is strange to me though, how curious the Chinese are about foreigners. Many people would stare at us, take pictures from a distance, or ask to take pictures with us. This fascination is unique to me because America is such a melting pot. We are used to seeing different types of people every day but the Chinese are not. It was weird for me, in contrast, to see a nation filled with such a large majority of similar people.
After visiting the different tourist attractions in Shanghai such as the Jade Buddha Temple, the Shanghai museum, and the residence of Sun Yet Sen, I got a better sense of Chinese history. I also was able to realize the pride the Chinese have for their history. Everything is well preserved and respected. It is amazing how much history one country can hold considering how old China is relative to how young the United States is. I am excited to see what more this trip will unfold!
There are not only domestic differences, but of course there are differences from America. Chinese people grow up with a different mindset than Americans. I love hearing different perspectives from the tour guides and people I meet. It helps to compare the way I learned things to the way the Chinese learned them. It is very important for people to be well rounded and have a good world view. I highly suggest coming to China, or any other country. Not only do you learn the history of the places you visit, but you also learn so much by observation. Nothing can compare to experiencing a foreign culture. There is much to learn about the rest of the world and being knowledgeable and aware is one of the best advantages.
My first impression of China is not what I anticipated. I'm surprised by some things and others are as I expected. The way the city looks is like I've seen in movies, though surprisingly not as busy as I suspected. The thing I found most interesting is that although China is a very successful and powerful country, it doesn't look quite as developed as I expected. It's dirty, buildings are not well taken care of, there is unfinished construction everywhere. Having previously been to other countries, china reminds me more of Peru than of the US. There are certain high class areas that look similar to America cities, but more that make think that the country is less advanced than it is. It makes me a little proud to be an American though, I didn't realize how much all our crazy laws and government interference have actually done to help us. Then again, there are things I've seen here that we could learn from the Chinese.
One of our largest observations didn't make itself known until we came to Beijing. Between a university visit and hearing from other American students about an arrest in Tianamen Square. We learned that though it's not always clearly visible, their is a distinct and powerful control from the government. In a debate we had with the Peking University students, we found that they didn't think of things as we did, they immediately went to what the government should do, and were less voiced in their opinions. The arrest we heard about was for a protest that happened in the square which was immediately squelched. We also learned from our tour guide that in the square you used to no even be able to talk about the massacre or anything that might offend the government for fear that you may be arrested.
We also observed a lot of disorganization in the country which I think is the reason for the lower standard of living. There are not a lot of policies for certain situations, care is not taken towards the homeless or lower class, the streets are often unclean and filled with unfinished construction.
At the same time we have observed a very nice country one with an appreciation for their history, preserving it and using it as a way to generate income. Academics are very important to the country focusing on having high performing students who are well educated in a variety of different subjects.
Overall my last impression of China is that the country is still developing. I've been shocked at how recent much of their history is and the current government is a very young institution. A lot of their country mimics that of other countries and that is because they do not have precedent for much of what they do. I think that given time China is going to be one of the world's superpowers. They are learning quickly and developing a country that rivals that of even ours.
It has been remarkable to see the change and the differences between the various areas in China but consistently I have been reminded in my mind that despite the fact that the Chinese come from a very different history, culture, and world than my own we are much more similar than we are different. As Ryan said at the last class discussion I had this fixed impression of China which consisted of a boring and dull area where people lived and survived in perpetual fear of an oppressive government that to some extent feared and was wary of the West.
Having been here, I realize that is not at all what it is actually like here. While yes, they have some governmental differences and this has impacts on how the people think, they are for the most part very similar to us. Shanghai could have been an American city if the ethnicity of the people in it had been a little more diverse and the signs had been written in English. The people dressed in bright clothing, laughed, played, worked, and lived. It didn’t look like surviving it looked like prosperity.
While China has much to continue to develop they have a deep heritage. They have invented concepts and ideas that are used today (gunpowder, printing, paper making, etc.), they created one of the largest empires the world has ever seen, they have had a long and dramatic time of political change in the more recent past, and they are heading towards being a modern power in the East.
This journey was highly educational but also very enjoyable. I found myself in mythical places such as the Great Wall, standing atop the longest wall ever built in human history (and through mountains). I found myself staring at the Terracotta soldiers, built 2000 years ago for the function of guarding the first emperor of China during his afterlife. I have seen the decadence and mystery of the Forbidden City and Coal Hill where the most powerful rulers of Asia resided at one time. I have walked into the room where the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party took place. I have seen the legacy of China. And in seeing the legacy I feel I have caught glimpses of the future along the way. I see a once ancient power of the East re-emerging not as an oppressive force but as another nation who seeks in total the general welfare of its people and while there are areas it could improve in, they are more similar than they are different to me and to my country than I was led to believe.
My first impression of China when we initially arrived in Shanghai was that this place was much more than I expected. I mean this in many different aspects of this country. First of all, there were far more people than I had expected and the traffic was more hectic than anything I have ever seen. There were vendors everywhere selling trinkets, beautiful silk, statues of Buddhas and dragons. It struck me as a place of non-stop happenings and a profound history to go along with it.
My overall last impression of China encompasses a lot more than just the big cities that we have visited. When we went to some of the smaller cities like Luoyang we got the chance to see the industrial and production side of China, which it is well known for. However, that wasn’t what I had expected either. In my mind I pictured factories full of little kids working to make products to ship all over the world. What we really saw in Luoyang was large plants shipping truckloads of roof shingles or asphalt. My impression of China also changed when we took the bullet trains and we got to see a lot of the farming scenery all around the country. It was so interesting how the farmer s here can do so much with such little amount of land and make a decent living off of it. Since large portions of the population are still farmers I was very interested to see this aspect of China.
Something else that changed my overall last impression of China was the students that we visited at Peking University. They were extremely intelligent and academically mature students but you could really tell that a lot of Mao’s influence of communism is still very prevalent here and that they still look to that era of time as something to take pride in. I have found that what I expected the ideals of the people of China to be are not what they are actually like at all. I was expected everyone to be a lot more traditional than and not quite as western as they are. They are really quickly moving towards being just like western countries in an economic and social aspect.
Overall, my last impression of China is that it is a country that has an immense history, has struggled through the last few hundred years, but is sure to come out on top once again. It is a society full of people who are very prideful of their city and history. It is a place that is ever changing in infrastructure, society, and economically. It is an amazing country full of surprising and endless amounts of things to learn about. I have highly enjoyed my 18 days in China and it has definitely had a lasting impression on my life.
One thing that I realized a little longer into the trip than I should have is the control that the government has over the population. It was not very apparent in Shanghai, but I was able to see it clearer in other areas. It is a Communist country, but I guess I just never expected it to be obvious. When we visited somewhere, such as the tea house or the jade factory, we were told that they were government owned. Even the Silk Market is completely government owned! Also, in Beijing, they limit who can drive a car on certain days. I do understand the reasoning behind that, but I am not sure it is something that would fly in the US any time soon.
One thing you don’t notice unless you are looking for it is the lack of many lower class individuals. Everyone seems to be able to support themselves pretty well, wear nice clothes, go out to eat, and have free time. This is different than in the US, where the lower class is quite apparent. I do believe, however, that the government control has something to do with that.
The culture in China is strong and unique. Beliefs have been held since ancient time and still influence the population today. I love the street vendors and open markets that we saw in every city we visited. In Xi’an one night, there were even vendors that closed off half a street and set up music, food, a seating area, and a place for dancing. Rather than having completely separate cultures in different areas, all cultures came together as one for both work and play.
China, for me, was a great chance to experience a new culture, a new government, and a new social system. It amazed me how all of the history we learned, from B.C. to A.D., has an influence that is readily perceived in society today. After having been in China for three weeks, I now can say that I would definitely go back. But first, I think I have some more Chinese language to learn!