Well, we missed the typhoon, the one that never materialized past the torrential downpours we had on Tuesday, and here I sit, back in my comfy little, boring, stateside house at 5 am, unable to sleep. Time to get on with reality. But before we get back to our regularly scheduled blogging, I just wanted to post my favorite picture from my China trip. Jeff pointed out that what really made this picture was not the unique beauty of the old woman’s face but the fact that she was wearing the traditional Communist uniform. We were just walking in the old part of town and she happened to open her door and come out to sit. She seemed equally happy to have her picture taken.
A few more realizations came on the long flight back from Shanghai. First, and this is going to sound incredible, in a city of almost 20 million people, I saw not one gas station. Not one. I have no idea where those millions of drivers and their millions of cars get their gas. Second, Sheryl and her son Noah pointed out that there were quite a few newly adopted babies coming to the US on our plane. I hadn’t really sorted all the crying that was going on until they pointed that out. And that made me think back to another thing I had noticed on our walks…we saw very few babies in general. No doubt the government’s one child edict had something to do with that. And finally, while there was a great deal of poverty by our standards, there seemed to be very, very little homelessness. And those that did live three generations to a small apartment still had a nobility and cheer that was striking.
And just one more quick thing that I found of interest for now (although I’m sure I’ll be blog processing this trip for weeks to come), Tom Friedman’s column yesterday spelled out a lot of the same themes I wrote about the other day. In some cases almost eerily so. In talking about the Chinese city of Dalian which is almost as big as New York but has no name recognition at all, he writes
I am not blaming them. It is a blessing that their people are
growing out of poverty. And, after all, theyâ€™re just following the
high-energy growth model pioneered by America. Weâ€™re still the worldâ€™s
biggest energy hogs, but weâ€™re now producing carbon copies in places
youâ€™ve never heard of. Yes, â€œAmericansâ€ are popping up all over
now â€” people who once lived low-energy lifestyles but by dint of oil
wealth or hard work are now moving into U.S.-style apartments, cars and
Without a transformational technological breakthrough in the energy
space, all of the incremental gains weâ€™re making will be devoured by
the exponential growth of all the new and old â€œAmericans.â€
Shanghai surely is symbolic of a new “America,” and I’m afraid, in the long run, we all may be worse for it.