This is a continued feature multi-part blog post written by our Executive Director, Alanna Hendren. Alanna will be blogging about her recent experience flying off to China as the leader of the People-to-People Psychiatric Services and Developmental Disabilities Delegation. Every Tuesday and Friday, we will be posting about her journey in China, the developmental services offered there, and the people there. To read part 6, click here.
Arriving in Guilin, we landed in a resort and vacation city with lots of tourists from all parts of China. The scenery was different, but the place reminded me of Niagra Falls. One of the hotels there even had a waterfall that rushed over about 12 floors of windows while symphony music played. Guilin is tropical, hot and sticky, but a place of tremendous natural beauty. I always thought that the mountains painted in Chinese landscapes were stylized but those green cliffs are real – with soaring eagles flying above and people pushing rafts made of large bamboo sticks on the river below.
Guilin has a population of over 1 million, but most of the city has been built only since 1973, with construction accelerating big time since 1981. Like Vancouver, Guilin slowly merges with rural and farming communities. It was a small town compared to Beijing, at about 17 million and Shanghai at about 20 million. We visited a rural village on our way back from the Li River and the family houses of the people with relatives who work in the city were strikingly superior to those of their less-fortunate neighbors. Water wheels are still very effectively used for irrigating the never-ending rice fields.
There is no universal healthcare in China, so China medicine is used as an economic altnerative. Most people have insurance, but there are large deductibles. Farming communities pool their resources in a type of co-operative self-insurance but there is never enough to pay full costs. Becoming ill is a big worry, but the long-standing Chinese tradition of fmailies caring for one another in troubled times continues to be strong. The challenge of providing health, education, and social services to a population of 1.4 billion cannot be easy to overcome, particularly with visible generational divides between older adults and their tech-savvy grandchildren. More fortunate parents are working hard in the city and becoming accustomed to a daily hustle that will yield enough money to satisfy their technologically global children. This is a galaxy away from the cultural revolution. Coupled with vigorous prosperity, the one-child policy has grandparents feeling like they’re raising a generation fo spoiled brats. Kids are cyber spaced-out and gaining weight, just like in the West, and feeling just as entitled to the newest in pop culture. China is contemplating implanting a device in every computer that will censor access to unfit web sites, but some 12-year-old will figure out a way around it in no time, just like they do here.
One newspaper story told of a pre-teen boy who’d taken his father’s motorcycle to the internet cafe to play online games. After he spent all his money, he put the motorcycle up for sale on the internet and got $143 US for it, then he spent all that money. Fearing reprisals from his parents, he disappeared but the police found him and returned him to his family. Another child reportedly died in an internet cafe because he played games for three days straight with no water or food. The next generation, my children included, are truly a global generation who live in a virtual world where local GDP only seems to matter with respect to internet access. The internet has truly democratized cultural evolution and with it, the world.