Recently we visited Zhoushan which was the biggest island of Zhoushan archipelago group which is located about 100 miles southeast of Shanghai. we landed at Beijing and transited to domestic terminal to Shanghai, from there we took a high speed train to Ningbo, and where our cousin pick us up and drive about 1 hour to Zhoushan. Zhoushan is about 1/3 the size of Long Island and with a population about 1 million.
The first impression we have is the infrastructure. Smooth ride in the highway, 4 bridges we crossed to get to that island, the first is 20 kilometer long, another suspension bridge probably longer and equally impressive as Verrazano Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island. The second impression is the ubiquitous horizontal cranes building apartment blocks and highways. the third was when we arrived at our cousin’s house, it was a solidly built, 3 stories, brick house, in the middle of the city which used to be a small farming village as my wife who has visited it in ’74 informed me. My parents were from the area, but I don’t know any relative there now, but my wife has an extensive web of uncles, aunts and cousins. we traveled with her 88 years old mother, and her brother flied in from Beijing, as other relative converge from various towns in Zhejiang for the reunion. We stayed with our cousin for the 2 weeks there and additional 3 days in Shanghai on the way back.
We visited China almost 3 years ago. Living in U.S. facing constant barrages of propaganda reviling China, and trumping the coming collapse of China, even though I dismiss them intellectually I was relieved that I can experience first hand knowledge of what’s happening in China and rebut those critics. Our cousin was a peasant which used to be a disadvantage, but now seem to turn out better for him and regretful for one of his friend who used back door to get an urban registration. As a peasant he has land use right. So instead farming his 2 acres of land, he borrowed money and built 2 houses on his land, one for himself and other he gave to his son. He can’t sell his house, but he can rent out his excess apartments for Y700 each (conversion rate about Y6.1/dollar). He works in a hospital. Recent government attempt in equalizing rural and urban inequality resulted in him and his wife paying a lump sum equal to 4-5 years benefit value to Social Security fund and small monthly medical insurance and receive retirement and health benefits which obviously the government have to make up for the deficit after that period. My sister in law, she was traveling with us wondered how much that would cost the government, and western economist predicted the bankruptcy of the SS fund. We visited many houses as all the relatives rushed to fete us and invited us for visit. Many of the houses were newly constructed and rival any McMansion in Queens. Most have a water cylinder in the roof with solar panels for heating and store hot water. All have washers, but no dryer as clothes were dried by sun on the balcony. On some highways we saw light poles with a small wind turbine and rotating solar panel for electricity, obviating the need for power line. Our cousin’s grand daughter is 11 years old and in 4th grade. Her grandfather is helping her education by providing funds for her tutoring on Saturday in calligraphy, Chinese harp, and more intensive study in English.
We walked in the park early in the morning, find crowds doing calisthenics, dancing, Tai Chi, or playing Badminton. People worked from 8 to 1130, lunch break, than 2 to 530, that’s 35 hours/week, men retire at 60, women at 55. During lunch time people in electric scooter crowd the sidewalk as old city narrow streets forced them together with pedestrians returning home for meal. Breakfast cost less than Y5, bus fare Y2-3, and seniors 60-70 at half fare, with over 70 seniors free. Restaurants all post recruiting posters showing minimum wages at +Y2000/month plus free room and board, compare with Y1000 last time I was in China. Obviously there is a labor shortage as waitresses don’t seem to understand local dialect well, and mostly migrants from other provinces. New city about 5 miles east of the old city display wide, spacious boulevards, large government buildings and beautiful museums, binge spending by local government does worry central government on local debts. Xi jinping was in Zhoushan a few days after we left for inspection. He was the governor there when the bridges were built, forever changing people’s lives for better. People there are prosperous and satisfied. People in the West mouthing democracy and election have no idea how popular Xi is in China. Of course Zhejiang is a top tier prosperous province, but if Xi manages to mold China in his vision of China Dream I don’t think it’s impossible for all China to achieve all.
In Shanghai we visited the 100 floor of Shanghai World Financial Center. Looking down at the city and the still incomplete Shanghai Center which is taller. Waiting for the elevator to take us down among foreigners ah-ing and oh-ing at the marvel which took only 6 years to build, I all but sense the flow of soft power from the antique Empire State Building to Shanghai.
In Shanghai book store, I manage to buy the 2 books I planned to acquire. One was called “Ordinary World”, by Lu Peng, recently turned to a TV serial and very popular, about the travails of 2 brothers from Shanxxi, their ideals and struggles at the end of Cultural Revolution to the dawning of new age. The other is a compilation of columns written by Xi Jinping under pseudonym at Zhejiang Daily when he was the governor in Zhejiang for 6 years about governance and responsibility of officials. It’s called “New Words from 9 Rivers”. Anyone who is interested in Xi, China Dream, or just want to understand China should read those 2 books rather than listen to all those China experts.