Reputedly a Chinese proverb or curse, Interesting Times refers to the turbulent history of China, a country that has seen its fair share of revolutions, especially the one it is currently undergoing from a socioeconomic point of view (of course Shanghai has always been an important trading post with the West but this didn’t permeate to the outer regions as modernity has these days (relatively speaking)). This week is certainly going to be Interesting; two days in London, then back home, then off to Cardiff, then central Wales where I may just spend my time sleeping after a feverish few weeks of comings and going – plus Reading Festival is on the horizon now (over there, look, stand on your tiptoes, it’s just behind that church on the left… see it?) and that is always a tiring weekend even if we do take our own comfy chairs these days!
I’d be interested to repeat the journeys we made ten years ago, through China, starting out at Hong Kong, up to Shanghai to Xi’an and finally on to Beijing. We didn’t see any Western Europeans during our time in China until we reached Beijing and even then they were few and far between. Of course this was before China had become the economic power it has today as well as prior to the Olympic games which did a lot to open the door to the West. Like many places you revisit years later, it is probably undergone massive change, signs were starting to appear of the West (not necessarily a good thing!), with McDonalds, Starbucks and Outback Restaurants appearing in their capital. Whilst Globalisation can be beneficial in many ways, I hate the way it railroads over cultural identity – the UK High Street is testimony to this with one town centre very much resembling any other you visit around the country – I guess that’s one of the charms of Africa is that business’ insidious tendrils haven’t spread as far just yet – it will of course as companies interested in the bottom line look at ways of cutting costs, moving overseas offices from various Asiatic countries. Let’s just hope they don’t convert the Masai Mara (insert favourite African wildlife reserve here) into a business park.