Sunday, November 01, 2009

Winter has arrived!

A cold patch in the last few days led to beliefs that the short autumn of around 6 weeks has already ended, though some optimists believed it might warm up again for a few more days. Waking up today to snow dispelled that notion. Though it might get a bit less cold at some point, winter certainly seems to be here. On the up side, skiing should be possible soon.

The other upside is the joy of eating hotpot (a tub of boiling water/spicy broth that you put food in and cook yourself) which warms you up and is lots of fun and tasty. I had that this week with a friend who was working at AIESEC in the UK 2 years before who was in town. In fact, with Flic (who i worked and lived with when I first came to Beijing 5 years ago) also visiting, and a couple of other friends of friends somewhat related to work in town also requiring attention, it was a busy week for visitors!

As you may have read, or watched, the parade on the 1st October was a fairly impressive thing, though, really a tale of two halfs. The first was a North Korean style military parade which kept the military and academic geeks happy checking out the latest Chinese military capabilities. It also satisfied the Chinese public, who felt incredibly proud of their country's military strength. They still fear invasion, having been defeated and invaded so many times in the so-called '100 years' (around 1850-1950) by the Europeans and Japanese. They still have some innate fear of something similar happening, though this is not rational or logical but is bred by the Chinese media.

The real story is one where China has no real chance of being attacked and defeated by anyone due to its size, its standing army being over 2 million people, and the fact it has nuclear weapons. In fact, the USA is more likely to be attacked than China, since the USA has made so many enemies, yet even such conventional warfare is unlikely. It was interesting talking to friends here, and seeing that many of them do not yet see China as a threatening force, which of course a number of other countries now do, with its economic, trade, and increasing military might being of more use to attack, than defend. 1 American friend of mine commented on what would the world say if America has a military parade in Washington DC showcasing its most fancy technology (i.e. stupid arrogant super power showing off and showing its power to potential enemies to frighten then), which the Chinese did not see as applicable to them. I bet in 10 years time, by the 70th Anniversary, the world might well see another Chinese parade as they might see an American one today. For a quick summary of this read this article from the Chinese government's official media outlet, Xinhua, entitled: China shows military might on National Day, stresses self-defense (http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-10/01/content_12147021_2.htm)

Other conversations that took place on that topic tended to revolve around the issue that China's military is still about 20 years behind the Americans though it is catching up in some areas quicker than others. It's military budget is increasing fast, though is still way way behind the USA. It is quite funny really when most Western countries are trying to decrease their military budgets and completely change their strategies for new types of warfare, counter-terrorism, and wars on foreign soils that require lighter nimble forces, as well as machines more than people; the Chinese seem to be going the opposite way. Although the announcement that the army would hire another 130,000 graduates is more likely to be about ensuring students get jobs than about actually expanding the army.

The second half of the parade involved each province having a float along with other floats displaying green energy, harmony and other key themes. There was also tens of thousands of people, ordinary (but selected) as well as military marching past with signs (and a few photos of Mao and the other big Chinese leaders) all lauding the country, its leaders and its aim for a sustainable and harmonious development etc.

This was done whilst 80,000 children were holding up different colored boards in the background to make different words related to what was happening which in itself was very impressive!

The 60th was also marked by having tens of thousands more volunteers on the streets to do nothing useful really. As with the Olympics, although it is generally good for people to get into the spirit of volunteers, I have to wonder whether it somewhat demeans the concept of volunteering. Standing in a street or sitting in a booth is not quite the same as washing old people in a hospital or committing to teach the poor every weekend!

Last night we struggled to get to yet another leaving party (it really seems as if most foreigners hit about 4 years and then leave), because Beijing Guo An football team won their last match of the season winning the Chinese league for the first time. We did not know the match was on yesterday and got stuck whilst the crown celebrated on the streets with a parade of sorts straight after the game that blocked lots of roads. It was quite cool to join in for a bit, and also surprising the celebration was happening (though it seemed planned and was well policed). I am not even more surprised having read there were riots on Thursday after tickets for the game sold out. It was the first time i had ever seen a large number of Chinese people on the streets ever and an encouraging sign that such things are possible in very controlled and non-political environments (other political protests have happened in smaller villages or cities, normally involving protests about environmental concerns, but these are not normally planned and often lead to violence).

Having watched Guo An lose twice in the Summer during the Asia Premiership Cup, with the stadium about half full, i wish i had known about the match yesterday and gone to the game as at 60,000 capacity it must have been a great atmosphere.

October was a month for several small projects, November is now when a couple of longer and larger projects are starting that will keep me busy until February -Chinese New Year- when I will be home for a couple of weeks. It seems so close already!

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