‘Most impressive’ is what I thought of last Monday’s ABC’s 4 Corners program on how China is transforming itself from a rural backwater into one of the world’s most formidable economies. It is estimated that it will be the world’s number one soon. How do they do it?
Is it education or has China always been a country of forward looking people? I mean, those hidden terracotta warriors and their horses were not there just by accident. It gave us a pretty good indication of an amazingly creative culture even at 200BC. Fancy, having the modesty to bury them. In Australia all we have managed so far is to have kept Phar Lap’s heart inside a bottle of alcohol. If it wasn’t for the Danish Vikings, our Opera House would never have been built either.
It’s no mean feat to build one city of 200.000 within seven years, let alone dozens of them. I have trouble getting my car’s pink slip done within the eight week time limit, or much worse, forgetting to do my zipper up after I have used the local men’s on the stroll to Aldi’s with a shopping list firmly clutched in my hands. “Don’t forget the toilet paper”, still ringing in my ears.
Slothfulness is not in the Chinese psyche. Meetings were held whereby the farmers were told by the village elder to change their thinking. Instead of hand ploughing the land and growing pigs they must develop a mindset of ‘business’ for the future and educate the children.
The children were seen root learning very diligently. Grandparents were shown to pick the youngsters up from school. Dad had foregone the hand-ploughing altogether and was working in Shanghai earning in one week what the wife would earn in one year ploughing and fattening pigs.
It was amazing to see, that despite the poverty, many still brought a mouthwatering arrangement of foods on the table, especially heralding in the Chinese New Year. When I see footage of the overfed but undernourished poor in Australia, slurping from Coke bottles and eating packets of chips, I get feelings of cultural doom and despair.
I could also not believe the leanness of the villagers. Was it a result of hunger and hard work or was it also their diet which seemed very much based on eating many greens. Everyone seemed well dressed. I mean, very clean and there was no rubbish lying about. I always wondered on how so many hundreds of millions lived, how did they survive? How come they seem to be forever smiling and laughing?
The hacking away at the clay with a hand held hoe and the lure of earning big money didn’t prevent one husband from wanting to return to his farm. The wife refused, became stroppy and told her husband to keep earning money in the big city. The kids have to go to school, she added. There was more than a hint of marital whiplash about in that couple.
The one thing that seemed to shine through was their connection to each other and family and an indomitable will to make the best and succeed. Money making was the way to the future but so was their love of kinship and family.
Now back to those Terracotta soldiers. The facts are amazing. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over eight thousand soldiers, one hundred and thirty chariots with five hundred and twenty horses and one hundred and fifty cavalry horses, the majority still buried in the pits. Then there are musicians, comedians and other non-military figures. All are life-size.
We are always dazzled by the art of the ancient Egyptians and the influence of the Greek civilization on our western world… but the Pyramids and Parthenon seem to be somewhat insignificant compared with the history of the Chinese. Perhaps both are almost unfathomable in how it was possible to achieve such enormous heights during that time.
I wonder what will be dug up from our times, a large intact veneered Mac Mansion with Caesar-stone bench tops and tangled heaps of zinc alume, Chocó boxes, Apple tablets, and many leaf blowers with pebble-crete lawn edgers…