Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Suzhou, China

Friends: Since I'm checking email every day to keep tabs on Stephen I figure I might as well send out some sort of report at the same time.

Tonight I may end up in a hotel for the second time on this trip, as its been raining all day and I'm wet and cold and not warming up in this Internet place, as there's no heat. Nor was there heat in the restaurant where I just had a bowl of soup. I've had to keep moving to stay warm the last two days, forcing me to gain more mileage than I wished to Wuhan. But at least it led to a premium campsite last night where I could linger this morning until 9:30, hoping the misty drizzle might be burned off by the sun. No luck. It was a cold night with the temperature dipping below forty, but I was toasty warm in my down sleeping bag.

For the second time since leaving Xian I camped in a small cemetery with overgrown vegetation obscuring all but the tips of the tombstones. Last night's was in a cluster of pine trees, whose needles made for a soft mattress. As the previous cemetery, it was unwalled, and I didn't realize it was a cemetery until I was upon it. It was off on a dirt path, but still right alongside the highway. Both cemeteries were rare spots of unkempt, somewhat wild foliage, as all other land is under cultivation. China does have a fairly aggressive program of reforestation, but it is so recent none of the forests are very mature, nor more than a patch of a few acres. It makes me long for France, where nearly a third of the country is still forested and finding a place to camp is no concern.

China just celebrated the 30th anniversary of Isaac Stern's seminal visit to China shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution and the launch of the opening up policy. Stern's son David, also a prominent musician, participated in the celebration along with some of the young musicians who played with Stern and have gone on to be acclaimed musicians in their own rite. Some were part of the 1980 Oscar-winning documentary "From Mao to Mozart" about Stern's visit.

One of the newspapers I picked up in Xian that I just got around to reading last night had a special section on an upcoming China-Japan conference. The countries are growing closer and closer and have just become each other's prime trading partner, supplanting the U.S.. There is still a wariness between the countries though, and lingering resentment over Japan's invasion of China in WWII, committing various atrocities, including a massacre of 300,000 Chinese. Japan seems to feel threatened by China's increasing power and for the past three years has been restricting the number of Chinese students it allows to go to university in Japan. The conference hopes to improve understanding.

As I linger at the computer, the rain continues. I just hope I can find a hotel with hot water.

Later, George

1 comment:

Stan said...

People here in Japan are expecting relations with China to get a whole lot warmer. The new Japanese government said it wanted an "equal" partnership with the USA and wanted to start an East Asia Common Market with China and others. For the Americans this means no more military help from Japan with the Afghanistan effort and past military agreements are up for grabs, so lots of downside for the USA. What Japan expects from China isn't so clear. China wants Japanese technology and knowhow, but they then want to sell it for cheaper than the Japanese can. The Chinese are gobbling up all the world's mineral resources through contracts with some (sometimes) very unsavory regimes. The Japanese are watching this all with some trepidation. Japanese society is getting older and some predict a long, slow economic decline. A more powerful China is inevitable. Maybe all the Japanese can hope for is that the Chinese will rein in that crazy regime in N. Korea. I think the Chinese know that is what S. Korea, Japan and the USA want, so that is why they never do anything serious to yank on the N. Korean's chain. One can only hope that Chinese economic development will give them more of a stake in maintaining peace in the region. It's beginning to appear the rivalry between China and India will dominate world events in the future, while the sun is slowly setting on the USA, Japan and Europe.