Experience China - Oct. 5-16, 2013
BEIJING SHANGHAI SUZHOU HANGZHOU
We are pleased to be partnering with Citslinc International Ltd. and Uniglobe Adventure House Travel to offer this exciting opportunity for chamber members, their employees, family and friends.
Citslinc’s President Leo Lui, has been organizing tours to China for more than 15 years and has partnered with over 800 chambers of commerce since 2001. Uniglobe Adventure House Travel team have provided exceptional travel service and advice for many years. Together, we will provide you with an exceptional travel experience in 2013.
China …. It’s Complicated.
I am just back from a 10 day tour of China and still recovering from the 12 hour time difference and the gruelling 14 hour return flight. We made all of the mandatory tourist stops at tombs, temples and palaces including a pilgrimage to the Great Wall and of course spent way too much money on kitschy souvenirs and gifts.
Like most westerners, I mistakenly viewed China as a homogenous, monolithic society but the reality was quite different. There were some unexpected parallels between China and Canada. Both are vast countries, made up of diverse dialects, regions and cultures; cultures heavily influenced by history, geography, climate and neighbouring states. Of course there are the obvious differences: the size of the cities and the population density, the 2,500 year history, the form of government and its role in people’s lives, and the incredible pace of development. While the climate in the north of China is similar to what we would experience in the Niagara Region, the more southerly parts of China enjoy a very moderate, almost tropical climate with palm trees.
China is very much a work in progress and a country of contrasts. As visitors to other parts of the world can attest, we were not acclimatized to the local water so we could not drink from the tap in our opulent five star hotels. What is most striking is that my hotel rooms were nearly the same size as a home or apartment that would be occupied by a typical family of three. There was an enormous gap between the affluent and the average citizen. Modern high rise development is abutting traditional single story housing that dates back more than 150 years. Open air local markets are being replaced with western style supermarkets.
Generally the people we met were happy and friendly, sophisticated and well educated. However, when we were out and about we would sometimes meet people on the street who had never met a Caucasian in person. Some, from the rural areas, were almost childlike in their delight in meeting a foreigner.
The most enlightening parts of our visit were the many conversations with our hosts and tour guides. They were open and frank and no topic was off limits. They were diplomatic and whenever a controversial issue came up they would pause, reflect, begin by saying “it is complicated” and then go on to share their views. As one would expect in North America those views were shaped by the individuals’ age, gender, education and life experience.
From my casual observation China is doing some things right. They clearly understand the need to invest in infrastructure and transportation. In the south they are intensifying land use and making effective use of open space. I was pleasantly surprised at their awareness of the need to balance economic development with their impact on the environment. They have a long way to go, but they are aware of the issue, and we discussed some positive steps they have made in this regard.
I was disappointed to learn that Canada was not high on the list of places to visit. European countries such as France and Italy followed by the the U.S. were the destinations of choice.
It can be a challenge to set aside our western sensibilities but I believe we in North America need to better understand China. This trip was a great opportunity for me to see and experience firsthand a country in the midst of an historic transformation.
Oakville Chamber of Commerce