In the introduction of his new book Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China (Chatto and Windus), Duncan Hewitt wrote that when he sat at the cafe of Shanghai IKEA, he can see cars and trucks were rushing around outside the window in the three level elevated roads which also tangled with a light weight train rail. When I was reading this, I was sitting beside a window in a quiet corner of one of the large Waterstone’s in Edinburgh. Outside the window is the cobbled back street, where a pigeon was fighting hopelessly against a seagull for some leftover chips. Incidently, Edinburgh is where Hewitt’s journey started, as one of the students learning Chinese in Edinburgh University who were about setting foot in China in late 80s.
An often heard complaint among the youngests who came to the UK from China is that this place is just a bit dull. People can cite me many things they used to do in China, eating out at a newly opened restaurant, karaoke at a new KTV, or exchanging some latest American tv series are just the common ones. There seems to be endless supplies of new ways of consuming and entertaining. Things are moving rather fast there.
This fits well what Hewitt said, that it almost like the 60 years of post war development in the West has been compressed into 20 years in China. BBC’s Andrew Marr, in his History of Modern Britain, describes the make over of Birmingham in the 60s – the old Birmingham almost completely disappeared while people can’t wait to see a New Britain. Imagine that in a much bigger scale, repeated every five years. That’s what’s happening in China.