Author Profile: Caitlin Meredith
“I have not before been anyplace that seemed simultaneously so controlled and so out of control. The control is from on high – and for most people in the cities, most of the time, it’s not something they bump into. What’s out of control is everything else.” – James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly
China lived up to my inability to have expectations. My month-long visit introduced me to living stereotypes (the bright-eyed university student praising the government), true originals (the African businessman who envies Chinese thought control) and absolute enigmas (the …
Ten years ago, the African elite sent their children to study at universities in America or Europe to ensure their success and financial futures. Now, the target is slowly shifting from the West to the East. “My father’s colleague told him if I studied in China I would always have a job,” said Pitshou Ngoma, 29, whose father is an agricultural minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “So he sent me to Beijing.”
Africa’s wealth of oil and other mineral resources has long been of interest to China. China-Africa trade has increased by an average 30 percent a year this decade, reaching nearly $107 billion in 2008, according to The New York Times. In order to solidify China’s hold in the developing economies, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao went on a much publicized African tour early this year, visiting eight pivotal countries. As government ties deepen – bringing Chinese companies to rural Africa to install roads, excavate minerals and construct schools, many African students are seeking to ride the Chinese tide to prosperity in their home countries.
When Celestin, 39, traveled from his native Rwanda to Beijing China on a scholarship to study economics in 1998, his Chinese classmates didn’t know what to make of him.
“They didn’t think I could be very intelligent,” Celestin said, who preferred that only his first name be used in this story to protect his privacy.
When he shared the top score on a citywide economics exam with a Chinese student, they had to revise their opinion. This isn’t the only change he’s seen in his adopted home of Beijing.
In the past ten years, Celestin traded economics for computer science, developing a successful embassy IT-support business as well as exporting electronics to Rwanda.
The early morning scene in a Chinese public park is part Lollapalooza, part Jazzercise convention and part Karate Kid, with just a tinge of One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest. While youth might rave or hip-hop the Shanghai night away, it’s the seniors who rule the dawn.
On a typical early morning in Zhongshan Park, no fewer than 17 activities share the walkways and grassy enclosures. From badminton, ballroom dancing and tai chi to table tennis, Chinese elders have taken the government’s physical fitness call-to-arms to heart. . . .
So now the next stop is China. China. I never thought I was the kind of person that would go to China but I can’t explain why. Latin America, Europe and Africa attracted me from as far back as I can remember, and I have lived and worked extensively in all three…but never Asia.
Preparing for this trip for several months – in stark contrast to my usual 72-hour pre-departure scrambles to go work on various epidemics in Africa – has allowed China to sit with me quietly, and not so …
Taking private matters public presents challenges for sex education in China.
When Li Zhuyou was 19 years old, his house, literally, came falling down around him. The collapse of the shoddily constructed building injured his leg so badly that he’s walked with crutches ever since. For several years he managed to work on the wheat and corn crops in his village, but three years ago the physical strain proved too great and he had to abandon his plot. And with it, his dignity.
Li, now 39, is a beggar in the streets of Xi’an. “Begging isn’t a good way to live, but it’s my only choice. . . .”
After reports that tainted formula had sickened thousands of babies in China in the fall of 2008, American shoppers cruised the aisles of their local grocery stores warily studying food labels – products with a “Made in China” label got chucked out of the cart.
With concerns mounting over the hold Chinese products had gained on American consumer habits, the powdered milk scandal sparked an outcry for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take action. But the U.S. public wasn’t the only group to demand reform. . .
“This H1N1 virus isn’t really a big threat,” said Yang Li Na, a young Beijing mother. Compared to neighboring Japan and Taiwan, where many residents wear facemasks in public and school trips have been cancelled, the Chinese public reaction to the H1N1 epidemic is decidedly relaxed. The Chinese government has been criticized internationally for an over-zealous quarantine-and-shame response to the H1N1 epidemic, yet Yang has been comforted by officials’ much-publicized efforts to contain the spread. . . .