Beijing is a behemoth of the ancient and modern worlds. The current Chinese Communist Government is one of the most powerful on earth with a strong grip of control over its people. And while much of the traditional Chinese culture has been downplayed in China’s recent past, sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City demonstrate China’s long-lasting legacy stretching back millenia.
What do I mean by “strong grip” of the government here? One example: each Chinese person is permitted to work where the government decides. This usually means that a person can work in their home province, and are not allowed to move to another region of the country without permission. As Beijing and Shanghai have stronger economies, there are many “illegal workers” from other parts of China. While using the Beijing metro (which is awesome), there were several police checkpoints that require personal identification. As a foreigner the police didn’t care about me – only Chinese nationals. If an illegal worker’s ID was scanned multiple times, they could be flagged. Not quite what we’re used to back home… perhaps a tradeoff between freedom and economic development. Even if you don’t like the Chinese government’s policies, the economic progress over the last decades have been unprecedented in human history.
In the city we stayed in a traditional area, with our hostel having an open common area that was surrounded with rooms. Very peaceful area and a nice neighbourhood. The food in Beijing is to die for, especially the Peking Duck. The duck was brought out and carved in front of us, and is eaten with thin pancake/crapes and various vegetables. So good!
Obviously, we visited the Great Wall! We went to a part of the wall that is less visited, and we had it to ourselves for the most part! I did meet one Chinese fellow who was trying to tell me something. My lack of Mandarin and his lack of English resulted in a traditional charades discussion. I figured out that he was offering me a cigarette, and that along his trek, we was smoking one cigarette for each wall tower! He had a good laugh and headed off!
The China trip comes to an end. This has been a truly unique and fascinating country. Even though us in the West don’t always agree with other political/value systems, we can appreciate their strengths and learn from their weaknesses. Now for the last leg of the Asia trip – Japan!
Photos by Jon Lang
Asia Trip – Early 2016