Author Profile: Hudson Lockett
Of the three cities we visited, I most enjoyed Xi’an. Not because it was particularly nice. In fact, that’s exactly why: in many ways, Xi’an is kind of a dump. But what a fantastic and wonderful dump!
On one of my final nights in Xi’an I had a chance to speak with a girl who’d returned to the city after studying abroad in Germany. Her English, and presumably German, were excellent, but she had no desire to go to Shanghai or Beijing. They were too busy.
Sitting in that Starbucks, she told …
Wang Xiaojia would never marry a man who didn’t own his own place. “No house, no security,” she stated flatly. A 26-year-old living in Shanghai, Wang said she planned to marry in a few years, but only to a guy with the right real estate bona fides.
Sitting in the city’s People’s Park, Wang confirmed the widespread Shanghai view that owning property is a status symbol, and for many men, a qualification for marriage. “‘The girls who aren’t looking for a house aren’t realistic, they’re idealistic,” said Wang.
More college-age Chinese go overseas than ever before, but not to bring Western political values back home.
Of the three cities we’ll be visiting, I’m most looking forward to Xi’an. Both Beijing and Shanghai have established a presence in the western psyche as Very Important Cities in China. When I chat with exchange students about the where I’ll be going they hardly bat an eye at the mention of either. Why wouldn’t you go to Beijing or Shanghai? It seems patently obvious that I should. They’re modern, forward-looking cities – the face of a New China.
But I only have eyes for Xi’an.
Some perspective: my mind is convinced …
Before I left for Beijing a friend recommended that I visit Beijing’s Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. He said it housed some of the most anti-American rhetoric in China, so I thought I’d have a look. While what I saw fell far short of my expectations for anti-American propaganda, I found it an eye-opening experience nonetheless.
For starters, there’s the grand scale of the place. A massive spire capped with the symbol of the People’s Liberation Army jutted from the top of the building. . . .
It was May 29, and my plane, American Airlines Flight 289, had just landed in Shanghai. I was eager to breathe fresh air, but the Chinese government had other plans. About a dozen public health officials in white biohazard suits, facemasks and plastic goggles boarded the plane, scanning passengers’ foreheads with thermometer guns.
My headshot confirmed that I was fever-free. But when seven officials began crowding around a passenger two rows ahead of me, I mumbled to no one in particular: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. . . .”