Friday, June 18, 2010


I know I mentioned before that China is really in a stage of rapid growth, but I did not realize the extent of this development.

There is literally construction and building everywhere. No matter where I turn, whether it is in a small town, a mountain, a highway, or a city, there is development. Malls are constructed, new apartment buildings are erected, roads are widened, mountain tunnels are blasted, and fields are overturned. It is crazy.

Not only does this mean an insane amount of traffic jams in an already crowded place, but it also means constant noise, dust, and pollution.

In the late 1950s, Mao Zedong wanted China to develop extremely quickly and catch up with the Soviet Union and the United States. This “Great Leap Forward,” in which China would “leap” over the normal stages of economic development, caused tens of millions of people to perish of starvation. Individual farmers were grouped together into communes to collectively plant and harvest crops. People melted all their household iron products such as pots to create material for industrial use. Figures for crop harvest were exaggerated by local Communist leaders in this frenzy for growth.

My grandmother described how she was extremely close to starving to death in one of the communes. People were given rations of food. Each person only received a handful of rice for a meal. My grandmother also had a young son, my oldest uncle, who she gave some of her portion.

Of course, this modern development is much better organized and planned out. It has helped a lot of people reach a never-before known standard of living. The new rising middle class has cars, TVs, appliances, and shopping and tourist destinations. More people have electricity, hot water, and jobs. However, that doesn’t mean the development doesn’t cause harm to many people.

A few days ago, on the highway I passed by this beautiful landscape. It was in the late afternoon, and the sun was just setting. Gorgeous terraced rice fields stretched out beneath the shadows of tall lush mountains. However, just beyond the border of the farmland was a huge smoke stack. It was pouring an immense black cloud that floated forebodingly above the peaceful countryside.

More people are also migrating from the rural areas into the growing cities. They usually receive jobs in construction or industrial labor. The city usually builds them some makeshift shelter to live in. Here is one such place right by my grandparents’ apartment. It is located underground.

Yes, they may earn a higher salary here in the urban areas, but the harsh labor coupled with lack of family and hours of overtime have driven some to desperate measures. Have you seen the recent news about the suicides at Foxcomm in Shenzhen, a corporation that supplies equipment to companies such as Apple?

I don’t know about you, but I think such a fast pace of change damages a country’s environment and the health, both mental and physical, of its people.

No comments:

Post a Comment