Chinese Ramblings

By , November 10, 2004 00:00

New York city, where I have worked on almost a weekly basis over the last year, can be called nothing but small. After staying in a hotel like the one in Shanghai, surrounded on all sides by 50 story buildings as far as the eye could see, there is nothing to be said except that New York is small by comparison. I’ve also come to the conclusion that service is a lost commodity in North America. In business settings, we give such lip service to service being the driving force behind Western “success”, but I have to say that both service and growth pale in comparison to what I observed in Shanghai.

Why is this? If nothing else, it raises some interesting questions about western culture. On both the way over here and several times in Shanghai, I’ve had very interesting discussions with people regarding the recent elections and the morality (if I may call it that) of America. It raises some interesting thought lines. I believe that to a large degree, we have purposely discarded the Christian foundation on which both Canada and the United States were founded. We are on the path to becoming more and more like the European union, which purposely excluded all reference to God or Christianity in its constitution only a few weeks ago. The loss of this foundation, leads to a secularism exclusive of any Christian principles. It means that people do not want to see a Christian in the Whitehouse, nor do they want morals guiding the country. Individuals fight for their rights. They do not wish to be submissive to anyone, and certainly not one who is openly a God-fearing man.

What a contrast here in China! We tend to think of Tiananman Square only 15 short years ago, and maybe it isn’t all that far back. While here, we spent considerable time with our very genial and friendly hosts. They were more than a little hospitable with their description of local customs, sights and culture. However, when a single question about politics came up, they immediately averted their eyes and said quietly that they could not talk about that. There was no question in their mind that they were to be submissive to the government and not question its ultimate authority. But is this worse than our “progressive” society? We assume that certain “rights” belong to us and we can question any and all authority. It means that small things like service simply disappear. Why should we be subservient to someone else? It is little wonder to me that the mountain will be cast into the sea?

I had a very interesting discussion with two colleagues today about how the Lord must look down from heaven and be so grieved with how much we have “progressed”. We fight against terrorism around the world, while we fight for the “right” to kill 4000 unborn children each day in America. While our conversation was more on the lines of churches and division, the differences in culture just seemed to be accentuated in my mind. Service in business and family seem more of a reality in Chinese culture than in America.

Anyway, I know that to lapse into political commentary is not a profitable exercise. The Bible shows that things will only get worse. It just seemed striking to me that a communist culture could teach us so much.

To catch up a little on last night, I went to a restaurant which is considered to be “the” restaurant in Shanghai. It’s called the M on the Bund and was written up in the New York Times just a few weeks ago. I was disappointed in that the food was Western in taste, but the rhubarb crumble was more than worth coming back for. Actually … forget the food. The view from the restaurant was as spectacular as anything I have ever seen within a city. The restaurant was directly on the Bund with a rooftop patio that looked directly across at the Pearl Tower and the Jinmai building. It was SPECTACULAR. There was no other words to describe it.

One of the more interesting things of note were the hundreds to thousands of barges, freightors, and local Chinese boats that somehow managed to keep from ramming each other as a traffic jam of water traffic flowed both ways through the canal. They ranged from being lit up like a Christmas tree, to no lights at all. It was truly a mix of old and new.

Speaking with locals, they said that Shanghai was changing so rapidly that it seemed completely different from month to month. They showed me a building which was designated as the highest building in the city only 16 years ago. By comparison to the hundreds (and I don’t use that word lightly) of buildings / skyscrapers that I could see all over the place, it was tiny. The growth is exponential. In fact, it has been so explosive, that the Chinese government is restricting incoming investment dollars to slow the economy. While it may profit some, I read in the newspaper that the average salary of a Shanghainese person was $USD 2500. The funny thing is that the pace of life seemed slower and general happiness higher than America. All very interesting to observe. Smile!

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