Roll up those taxi windows, drag your bags through security… this only comes every ten years. Beijing’s bitter wind welcomed 2270 delegates yesterday to shine their shoes and take their seats in a room booked for the “18th National Congress”. While the U.S. lets out its breath to enjoy another four years under Obama’s leadership, China prepares itself for a new president and premier (7 of the 9 current Politburo Standing Committee members are retiring this year). Xi Jinping, the likely candidate to replace President Hu Jintao, emphasized four main questions to be addressed at this year’s conference, namely: What flag will we wave? What path will we follow? And in what state of mind? To continue advancing towards what kind of goals? (我们党将举什么旗、走什么路、以什么样的精神状态、朝着什么样的目标继续前进) Specific, I know. Citizens wait eagerly to see what solutions the committee generates for problems like insufficient health care, inflated real estate, and the growing gap between the rich and poor. As news stations flash snippets of animated discussions over round mahogany tables, the mysterious lure of the national government grows in the eyes of the people. Local and provincial governments may be corrupt or unfair, but loyalty towards the national government is a tradition that stretches back thousands of years, born from the people’s innocent dependency and undying hope in a power that remains faceless. Just as religion presses followers to have faith in what they cannot see, a government too can round up millions of supporters if only by providing a mirage of hope.
Today’s picture doesn’t convey a whole lot of Chinese culture but does serve as a harbinger of a massive Chinese street-side decoration campaign if pollution here gets worse. Nice little forest road though, very tempting to turn onto.
So I’ve been eating at a delicious restaurant for the last two weeks that I was initially told was Mongolian because its Chinese name is pronounced “Mang-guo” which one, sounds like Mongolia and two, includes “guo” which is the word for country. This would not confuse me if it weren’t for the fact that this place only serves light dishes of fruit, sweetened rice, and something called “bird’s nest” which I have yet to find the courage to try. Since when do the robust nomadic people up in Mongolia eat only mangos for dinner? This restaurant’s lack of meat has puzzled countless people in our group to the degree that we’ve considered the possibility Mongolians don’t eat meat at all. You’ve probably guessed the punch line by now but if not, I’ll tell you today I learned how to say “mango” in Chinese, and won’t forget it.