It’s the 61st Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (National Day or 国庆节). Partayyy! That’s what it was in Tiananmen Square. Cotton candy, corn on the cob, massive floral displays, and… multi-colored plastic devil horn headbands. I have yet to discover their significance. But in essence, the mood on the square tonight resembled that of our Fourth of July. It was unfortunately (or fortunately) not the security-ridden atmosphere that I’d previously conjured up in my mind. Perhaps last year when China rounded its sixth decade the mood was a bit more conflicted, but I doubt it. All the controversial censorship, arrests, and injustices that plague the foreign press coverage on China feel like bitter annoyances when you stare into the crisp, glistening characters on two giant flat screens that illuminate messages of technological success, economic progress and a harmonious society. There is no looming sense of dissatisfaction here but one of overwhelming pride. After all, tonight’s square wasn’t empty but bustling with a smiling crowd snapping photos of their kids posing with Chinese flags and peace signs. And in the end, what’s not to be proud of? All the bad aside, because every country has its dark side, China’s unprecedented growth in the last twenty years is not to be taken lightly. Recognizing the pressures experienced in the past from both within its borders and abroad we might make rational sense not only of China’s rapid economic development but also of its political system. Of course there are many problems left to tackle here, but every citizen deserves a day to honor and rejoice in the successes of the country they live in.
(Photo taken in Xi’an). 红被绿取代了。China is GREEN! Really though, four months in this country and I’m convinced the U.S. better pick up its earth-friendly habits. Here’s a brief list of some of China’s green-ifying techniques:
1. Want a bag? Pay up.
Go to any grocery/convenience store and regardless of how much you buy, the cashier won’t automatically give you plastic bags unless you specifically ask for some and hand over a few coins.
2. No heat in Beijing until November 15th.
Yup, currently suffering under the capital’s centrally-controlled heating policy. Whether or not you enter a cozy classroom on a brisk October morning is up to the government and unless temperatures prematurely drop significantly (as they did last year on Nov 1st), November 15th is the magical date when an official presses the button that sends heat to the homes, schools, and offices of all 22 million Beijingers. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503543_162-20020269-503543.html
3. Hot summer sun? Cool off in 78 degree AC.
This policy isn’t heavily regulated, but the government encourages citizens to keep their AC units set no lower than 26 degrees Celsius, or 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. Also, (according to my parents’ tour guide in Shanghai), if the temperature rises above 35 degrees Celsius in Shanghai, the government will take drastic measures to save energy– including temporarily shutting off lights in the entire city. http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/shanghai/node17256/node17261/node17290/node17303/userobject26ai4181.html
4. Carrying bottled water? Foreign give-away.
You can’t drink water from the tap in China, so the average foreign visitor takes the simple route and buys chilled bottled water daily. But most Chinese believe cold liquids aren’t great for your health and many (especially girls) cannot stomach them. For this reason (and to save money) the vast majority of Chinese boil water and carry large canteens to class or bring a re-usable glass bottle filled with tea to work every day.
… the list goes on. In addition to these little steps, China has recently prioritized renewable energy development and is consistently cited for its progress in focusing on alternative energy, most notably electric cars. Check out this op-ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/26/opinion/26friedman.html?src=me&ref=general