THE DONKEY WHO HAS NEVER SEEN CHINA!
In the old days, one of the Young Turks went to Paris, and when he returned, he narrated it sweetly. In short, when they say, “It is a donkey who has not seen Paris, and they ask around: Has your dear father been to Paris?” When he answers no, he is met with the reply calling him a “son of a donkey! “. Now, we can apply this joke to China.
I first visited the Far East in the early ‘80s, and I have been going there ever since. Thankfully, I have business engagements there. Initially, it was a bit overwhelming.. If you set out to eat, you’d lose your appetite. But now, it is far ahead of the Paris of the past and the Western countries of today…
GOYA: As I say “Gez Oturma Yerinde Artık”(travel, don’t just sit around) , my trips and exploration of different cultures continue. Today, I wanted to share my experiences, my GOYA, in China. When we say China, we should no longer think of the crowd and the phrase, ‘Made in China’! Let me share what I’ve seen and remember. In the meantime, I’ll provide some insights and information about Chinese society from a few books I’ve read. After all, our motto is #makehappybehappy. #goya #china #godiva #art #food #society #electrictools
China imports many things, but as you know, they also manufacture many things themselves. For example, Western car brands, whose names we all know by heart, are produced there, as they all have factories there. Now, in major cities in China, there is a restriction on the number of license plates due to traffic density. The plates are sold at auctions for the equivalent of almost fifty thousand US dollars. However, electric vehicles are an exception because they have no license plate restrictions.
What you see in the image are local electric cars. The price of the BYD branded car, Build Your Dreams, is approximately one million TL.
At the same time, the use of motorcycles in China is quite common. Given that China is a generally flat country; therefore, they are easy to use. There are also license plate restrictions for motorcycles, except for electric ones, so electric motorcycles are used everywhere.
Although the Chinese adapt easily to modern life, they also like to keep the old ways alive. That’s why they still manufacture and sell old-style furniture, and it’s popular.
China seems a bit like the newly built United States to me. There is already a huge and rapid population growth. Every year, they have to build nearly ten cities each with a population of 1.5 million people.
In Shanghai, a river divides the city; one side of the river is the entirely new city, and the other side is the old city.
The facades of tall buildings are entirely used as communication screens.
However, there is one challenge; distinguishing between cities in China today is quite difficult. This is a particularly important issue for those looking to invest, establish a factory or fund long-term projects anywhere in the country. Many cities have engaged in branding efforts to stand out from the multitude of skyscraper-covered cities, but they have often ended up producing similar brands. In fact, there are at least seven cities in China that promote themselves as the ‘Geneva of the East’(1).
Beijing: The Beijing spirit consists of Patriotism, Innovation, Inclusivity and Virtue. These words were determined by a citywide vote, with several million Beijingers participating in the election.
Chengdu: Capital of Success, Capital of Colors, Capital of Taste
Chongqing: If you haven’t been to Chongqing, you haven’t seen China.
Hangzhou: Distinguished and Harmonious, Generous and Open-minded.
Hong Kong: Asia’s World City.
Kunming: Everyday is a Spring Here.
Ningbo: Honest, Practical, Open-Minded, Innovative.
Rizhao: Blue Sky, Turquoise Sea, Golden Sand
Shanghai: Amazing Every Day
Old Chinese houses are being restored resembling national gardens, much like our spacious mansions.
They use old settlements close to major centers to attract tourists. Today, there are no residents in these old houses , but you can tour inside. The items inside have also been preserved in the same way. In fact, these houses, which you can find almost everywhere, actually house vast gardens with lakes and waterfalls inside. In the cities, the influence of modernization is evident everywhere, however; they have maintained their focus on nature and the environment. For instance, there is a newly constructed shopping center and residence complex adorned with a thousand trees.
Don’t dismiss it as a mall; there is a Michelin-starred restaurant inside. Our team was diverse, with each member having unique preferences – one doesn’t eat meat abroad, another don’t eat fish, and one of us is vegetarian… Then, we found the solution by going to a Thai restaurant. The food was delicious.
As you know, I make an effort to dedicate time to appreciate art wherever I go. I had done some research here in advance and managed to visit some of the recommended places. We explored several modern art galleries. Pop art was very common, with many exhibits being interactive.
The M50 is often referred to as the urban ghetto of Shanghai’s art scene, situated within restored old factory buildings. With its continuously refreshed collections, modern and contemporary art galleries at M50 have pioneered an innovative space to witness free art in the city.
Additionally, I observed that, besides showcasing their own creativity, these galleries borrowed works from all over the world for their exhibitions. At the Museum of Art Pudong (MAP), I came across a wide selection, from archaeological pieces they brought from Naples to artworks borrowed from the National Museum…
Of course, we also made the market GOYA. You’ll find branches of the world’s most renowned grocery chains like Costco and Walmart, there…
I witnessed an interesting example of communication at the market; it effectively conveying the message of “Why you should buy this product, and Why you should buy this product from this market.”…
China, often associated with communism, indeed follows a communist ideology, particularly a red communist one. Despite being a single-party system, almost akin to a party dictatorship, China’s rapid development and equitable wealth distribution create an atmosphere where everyone appears to be in good mood.
Hu Jintao, who held the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 2002 to 2012, established the philosophy of a “harmonious society” and put forward the 8 Virtues and Shames that should be taken as basis in behavior without mentioning the party. These eight principles are still in effect (1):
1. Love your country; do not harm your country. Honor to those who love the motherland, and shame on those who harm the motherland.
2. Serve the people, never betray them. Honor to those who serve the people, and shame on those who betray the people.
3. Do not stray from science; stay away from ignorance. Honor to those who quest for science, and shame on those who refuse to be educated.
4. Be hardworking, don’t avoid work. Honor to those who are hardworking, and shame on those who indulge in comfort and hate work.
5. Be united, lend a helping hand to others, and do not profit at the expense of others. Honor to those who help each other, and shame on those who seek gains at the expense of others.
6. Honor to those who are trustworthy, and shame on those who trade integrity for profits.
7.. Honor to those who abide by law and discipline, and shame on those who break laws and discipline.
8. Honor to those who uphold plain living and hard struggle, and shame on those who wallow in extravagance and pleasures
The first Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai. It started as a regional movement and spread throughout the country. The speed and ascent of their journey from humble origins to where they stand now is truly astonishing.
Their affection for the Russians, who are a source of inspiration due to their political background, is quite apparent.
In fact, what is critical for the Chinese is an understanding of their country’s historical role. According to their perspective, China has always been at the forefront of science, technology, and economic development. Its culture has similarly led the way in terms of success and development. From 1839 to 1949, China experienced the “Century of Humiliation” when it was colonized under foreign attacks. But now, under the leadership of the Party-State in China, this situation has been resolved in society. Emotions such as pride, nationalism, and fear of change are experienced throughout society and at all levels. The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) understands the role of these emotions in the lives of the Chinese very well(2).Chinese people are not indifferent to corruption, inequality, and ethnic tensions and are treated both practically and philosophically in the context of an ancient civilizational norm. As in previous periods, food security, personal debt, and job security remain urgent topics for the vast majority of the population. The Chinese have experienced these challenges in their history, and now history is a significant resource for them to understand daily life. Confucius’ thoughts and accomplishments of ancient dynasties continue to be a guidance for the Chinese. Although the West predicts that China will weaken due to the contradictions between the market economy and the autocratic regime, the Chinese Communist Party strengthens the regime with its stance in favor of the majority in its public policies (2).
Buddhist temples in China were demolished during the early days of communism but have since been reconstructed. Likewise, mosques and churches are also being restored today. Communism propaganda is no longer made in mosques. I also visited Buddhist temples; they pray standing up, as in the photo. In front of them is a statue of Buddha standing in the middle. “Do you worship this?” I asked to someone He responded “No, he is the one who brought the knowledge to us, like your prophet.”
According to the legend, Siddhartha Gautama awakens under a fig tree and becomes Buddha (awakened) under that tree. For this reason, the fig tree is an important symbol for Buddhists, and you can often find it in their temples and works of art.
By the way, fig is also mentioned in the Quran, as you know, in the Surah At- Tin (The Fas it begins with an oath on them. It starts as, (3) “By the fig and the olive ˹of Jerusalem˺,
and Mount Sinai, and this secure city ˹of Mecca˺! Indeed, we created humans in the best form.”
Speaking of the Qur’an, let me state that 10.6 million Muslim minorities (Huis) live in China. Here are their rankings by all ethnic minorities and populations (1):
1. Zhuangs (Guangxi natives): 16.9 million
2. Huis (Chinese Ethnic Muslims): 10.6 million
3. Manchus: 10.4 million
4. Uyghurs (Xinjiang): 10.1 million
5. Tibetans: 6.3 million
6. Mongols: 6 million 52. Koreans: 1.8 million
7. Cossacks: 1.5 million
8. Russians: 15 thousand
9. Naturalized immigrants: 1445
By the way, another detail that caught my eye in their temples was the variety of Buddha statues; There was even an angry one, a cheerful one, a black Buddha…
There are large red Chinese fish and turtles in the temples. Visitors feed them, which is seen as a form of charity.
We visited different places. The place with the video below reminded me of the Grand Bazaar; even here, thank goodness, we have a Godiva Boutique and Café.
I also visited some other Godiva branches. Godiva is popular in China. In short, we continue to say #makehappybehappy all around the world, in all cultures 😊
The Chinese Communist Party continues to make the Chinese nation happy. There are few indications about China’s political system transitioning into a market-based liberal democratic alternative. Although instusive, the regimeenjoys widespread support in the majority of the population (3).
Let me give an example of interventionism. It is not possible to visit the following ten websites in China for various reasons (1):
1. Google Docs
6. Internet Movie Database
In China, as in every part of the world, people may have higher expectations from rulers. Environmental concerns, corruption, and nationalism may become more prominent on the public agenda. However, the Chinese Communist Party’s history of responding to daily concerns by “referring to the common good” points to political permanence rather than change (3). I wonder if this is the reason for the current success.
Now, I inevitably ask ourselves this: From what common past do we, as the people of this country, draw our inspiration? If we have nothing to draw from, then who stole our past? If we couldn’t get along in our past, how can we have a common future?
(1) Clements, J. (2021). How China Became China (trans. Cansen Mavituna), Metropolis Publications, pp140.
(2) Collins, N. and O’Brien, D. (2019). The Politics of Everyday China, Manchester University Press, pp.99.
Note: This open-source article can be quoted by citing the author. Copyright is not required.