We ran into some light rain in Chengdu after nearly 10 days of perfect weather; Xi’an however, is cold and wet, sleet turning the sidewalks into slippery black puddles. I didn’t come to Xi’an to sightsee (I was here before in 2003 to do that). It’s been about research for a new project I’m working on, and in terms of actually reaching some of my work goals, it was the highlight of the trip. (In terms of fun, it loses by a long shot to Yunnan.) I actually think I’m getting somewhere. Along with the work, Xi’an has also been about the best dumplings and yangrouchuanr I’ve had in my life, anywhere.
Short thoughts about Chengdu and Chongqing: Chengdu is as relaxed and as civilized as they say. Chongqing is a teeming, frenetic, hysterical mass of development and anarchy and impossibly random construction. Needless to say, I loved Chongqing, and liked Chengdu. The latter was a little too civilized for me, with things closing relatively early and the city generally lacking the breathlessness of Chongqing, or even Kunming.
Back in the real world…. Suddenly work opportunities have jumped from few to several, not all of them set in stone, but at least things are looking positive for the future. At the same time, I hear from my twitter friends recently that out-of-work Westerners are arriving in droves to Beijing to take advantage of the relative work glut, real or imagined. A lot of the young Westerners arriving FOB don’t know anything about China’s visa policies, or anything else about China, but this is the Last Great Hope, according to my friends. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare, and what their presence means for freelancers here like me (like lower fees and greater competition for work as China becomes the biggest buyers’ market on the planet).
There’s no question now that MNCs are continuing to place even more hope and investment in China, accelerating their efforts to the clicheed fever pitch as they strive, maybe a bit desperately, to tap into “the final frontier.” The thinking seems to be this is the last possible bright spot on a planet consumed in a morass of economic chaos, confusion and despair. (Their thinking, not necessarily mine.) Time will as usual tell if they’re right, but as far as bets go, this one doesn’t seem too insane to me.
I wanted to meet friends for business in Guangzhou and Shanghai next, but time is running out and I really want to see Pingyao. On the other hand, it will be freezing in Pingyao, and Guangzhou will be a relative paradise of tropical breezes. And I really should see those business associates in Shanghai. So once again I’m using my blog as a sounding board to help me figure out what to do next.
Update: I’m probably going to go back to Beijing early. Enough travel; ever since Lisa went west and I went east two days ago I’ve sort of lost interest and feel it’s time to get back to Beijing. Work to do, promises to keep, etc.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.