As I write this, I am hurtling along the Chinese countryside in a bullet train (D Train) traveling @ 204 kms/hr. Amazingly enough the wifi is keeping up with it and working perfectly. The view from my window is a blur of trees, rice paddies, yellow hayfields and equally beautiful and muddy waters of several unpronounceable rivers, i am headed towards zhengzhou the capital of the Henan province and the destination of my next meeting.
This is not my first visit to China or my last, but since the last time I was here so much has changed that I am compelled to write about it, for one the Chinese have totally meta morphed from a non English speaking, cycle riding nation to one that is literally falling over itself to speak to a foreigner, for business for the heck of it or for offering mysterious services for a few dollars. You can see the campaign signs everywhere as the big logo of “EF” or english first is unavoidable. Literally everything, restaurant menus to road signs are in English and Chinese both. The mantra seems to be “China is now open” but big mao still seems to be on guard as there are literally thousands of cameras all around, silently moving, clicking and whirring as they record the humdrum. I know because I took the liberty of standing in front of one for 3 minutes and then moving to the left and right, watching as it eerily turned to follow my movements ignoring the crowd.
This is day three of my trip, the first two having been spent at visiting haining city and the Shanghai tex fair held in a city which is both blinding in its efficiency and growing at a pace which is literally unimaginable. Currently the export of shanghai is more than the entire export of Pakistan, that is what the perspective is from this side. Its all skyscrapers and flyovers, a concrete maze of bright lights with a surprisingly still vivid oriental touch as the bridges have gardens underneath and the sidewalks still twinkle with lanterns albeit electric ones reminding the walker of an age long ago in this part of the world when pomp and courtiers were the norm. Now however its all business suits and designer labels as this monstrosity of a nation moves through its paces in a totally robot like fashion, all smiles and cellphones to anyone watching or listening. Its too convenient its too planned, its like a giant machine churning out moolah for those investing in it. the blooming tv has channels showing the 20/20 world cup, imagine that, cricket in China!
In the last three days I have discovered that the chinese which were slippery in the first place have now seemingly mastered the art of diplomacy as well as they never say no. They say “perhaps” and smile, making you wonder baffled as to what they mean. The point is not to refuse but to cajole and sooner or later one falls into their deal, not knowing if they got the best price or bargained hard enough. To a businessman like me this is most terrifying as it is literally impossible to read what the other man has in his cards, the cards are never revealed, ever. Even after the deal is inked and signed a slight smirk reminds one of the lurking danger of a clause somewhere, questioning just leads to more “perhaps” and more smiles.
The digi script sign above my head has just turned into a “please secure children in case of any suddeness” from the chinese script it was flashing for the last 4 hours, this means that my stop is arriving and for now i must cut off this journal to disembark.
Pictures will be upcoming as soon as i figure out a way to shift them from my blackberry to my laptop, without plunging the 10 cents a data minute dagger warid still holds over my heart.
Oh I forgot to mention, The friday times from last week has my article “Visas for the damned” in it, do pick up a copy if you can, due to it, I have recieved some fan mail as well!! imagine that me having fan mail, but “perhaps” i have earned it…