Sunday, April 22, 2018

Better city, our duty

Before I visited, I knew China, I knew it had a gender imbalance, a consequence of the one-child policy and an earlier historic preference for male children. I wondered whether any effects of this would be apparent to a casual visitor but saw none. In the five cities I visited, the people I met and those I observed seemed calm and happy. I saw no evidence of crime, homelessness, bad driving or drug abuse.

The slogan on this truck expresses the value Chinese place on group social responsibility.

Sadly, in the background, the sky beyond Mao's tomb is seriously polluted, something I witnessed not only in Beijing, Shanghai and Shijiazhuang, but from the train window as we passed through the countryside between those cities, and from the air as we approached Xi'an, a "small" city by Chinese standards, though it contains the equivalent of the population of Sweden. [Combine the populations of Shanghai and Xian, and you get the equivalent of the Canadian population.] China has 160 cities with populations over a million, and the struggle to reduce pollution is ongoing.

Initiatives include obliging new drivers in Beijing (and possibly elsewhere) to enter lotteries and compete for the privilege of car ownership, and banning licence holders from driving on more than four weekdays, based on the final digit of the number plate. There are also many motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles on the road. Nobody wears helmets, but these smaller vehicles have their own dedicated sections of road to drive on. Hordes of yellow and orange bicycles in the cities can be rented with the simple swipe of a phone app, and left anywhere the user finds convenient.

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