Soggy Sunday in Shanghai. Looking out of the window, the tops of the buildings in Pudong – the newer area over the river from downtown Shanghai – have disappeared under clouds. Normally they disappear under smog! You have to put up with very heavy pollution in China’s cities. They are so large, growth so uncontrolled that it has got out of hand. Slowly the government is realising the need to do something but they’re not sure what. They are rarely indecisive – 20 new airports, 100 new universities, an Olympics and they are in their element, but this has them stumped for the time being. In general, in all areasw, they are starting to say that they need to slow down and deal with some of the implications of the huge changes of the last 5-10 years. In Higher Education they have moved from 4m students in 2000 to 23m now but they have started to worry about quality and are putting the breaks on.
My second city was Beijing. No chance to look around. Flew in, went to the hotel, attended a banquet there, attended a conference there, andslept there. The only time out of the hotel was a reception at the New Zealand Ambassador’s house. Although in the middle of Beijing (another 20m+ city) it was a peaceful oasis with a reception held on the deck, with tables and chairs in the garden (recently delivered from The Warehouse by the look of it) and – surprise surprise -Cloudy Bay and Withers Hills wines. No complaints about being forced to drink here. The food was also resolutely kiwi, a buffet with lots of salads and plates. We weren’t asked to bring our own but I kept expecting the Ambassador to get out the barbie! The reason we were there was a meeting of Chinese and NZ universities. A pleasant evening because the heat and humidity disappeared.
Beijing is very grand in the centre, with huge boulevards, huge buildings, huge everything. Built to remind you that it is the capital city. Though we passed by the Forbidden City and taianaman Square that was all I got to see and 36 hours later, I was on my way to Tianjin.