Like many other societies, China had sailed fast; like the palms of Jykell and Hyde, good and bad.
I started my grand trip of Eastern 3 cities: Shenzhen, Shanghai, & Hong Kong this Thanksgiving break. The opinions might not be the most comprehensive, yet may the attempt snatch some tinkering.
Upon landing, I wheeled into Hong Kong on a modern Tesla – from Uber. The journey licked into a ramen dinner with Wins. Wins and I met 6 years away. He is the young generation of Hong Konger, caught in between the fierce verbal shootoffs between mainland and this assimilated little islet. Years passed, he still works at the insurance field, but he added on resume another skill – experiencing ramen, although a Japanese thing.
In short, I stumbled into the underground restaurant with my 50-kilo suitcase bomb. I said, “Wins, I am going to make videos now. Can you tell me of your life and your ramen endeavour in 1 min?”
“Wow, hold on Zhu.” Wins preserved his Hong Kong gentleman manner. He said, “Okay, this is called Dried Noodles, which you dip on sauces and eat without soup.”
The dried noodles extended their moonlight-kissed arms, and my foodelicious lust quickly burned. I grabbed one of the noodles and stuffed a spoon into my mouth, yum yum, a bit heavy.
“I think it is too salty.” Wins called out, “I tried many noodle shops in Japan including this one; this chef tossed in too many salts.”
I agreed. Wins is not the most expressive extrovert in the world, yet he is vocal. Wins said, “The best of Hong Kong is its lack of culture. Because it does not have a culture, it takes on all others. British, Chinese, French… But like now, I am afraid it will become Chinese.”
I said “me too”, despite my passport said I am Chinese. I had grown up next to Hong Kong, and saw its boom-n-bust. Cannot judge it, because history rarely allows commentaries from the depowered.
From one traditional trade port, I swung my feet into the other – the mainland crown jewel Shanghai. Like Hong Kong, it preserved the East-West blend since it was once a 6-country concession: British, French… Yet unlike Hong Kong, Shanghai is Chinese.
Since a little girl, I also wildly tittered my toes in Shanghai and wanderlusted on the financial shore. Now more skyscrapers mushroomed, and local taxi drivers continued to cry, “The Didi car-sharing eroded our lives. There are so many rich men, but not a little taximan.”
“Why don’t you drive Didi?” I asked.
“I am old now. I was once a trademan by the port and had money. But I gambled. Now the rich men from outside of Shanghai occupied the space. Poor us Shanghaineses.”
He insisted on counting me his past glories. I listened. In a way, it reminded me of the horsemen during Paris Belle Epoch, whose jobs fled because of their inability to suit auto demands.
Nevertheless, I posted Shanghai observation on YouTube. During the trip, I caught up with my childhood friend, film director Yuan. He said his life changed when I ching-chinged him a cocktail at Four Seasons a few years ago. He had never been exposed to an exorbitant lifestyle, and he carved my teaching by heart – escaping school and making money since. Now he drove a new car and paid my dinner. He asked, “Zhu, there are four blood-sucking fields: film, finance, medicare, and food. why did you sweep yourself out of your old and start making no-margin videos?”
I said a stupid ox had struck my head and let me choose again.
No, I said, “They are all the same. I do what I love.”
With the fortitude of will to chase dreams, I crippled back to Shenzhen, the ultra-field of innovation. A friend detailed me his pursuit on battery big data, which he described as, “I shan’t say, cos you won’t understand. It is in the future, you can’t see now.”
I said, “Tell me.”
So he made some cocktails and told me how human society is behind time: you don’t know when your car battery will die? The future system records everything, including your battery. So you can swap your thing in and out as you go with the people nearby as data is transparent. Bye Felicia to the opaque high margin.
I said, “Bravo man.”
The days of Start-up Grind and Tencent Alibaba events yielded down to the inability of me finding wifi in China. In Shenzhen, you pay out of your electronic pocket and tap into any transportation system using your phone. Your national ID, which I left in Manhattan, spoke on the stand. The Chinese phone number, which I never had, welcomed me to the automation world. The lack of all above made my days tough as a stray dog.
I remembered I walked pass some job-seeking stations. Economy is growing under the drive of e-commerce giant, and many lowly jobs are in need. I counted the wages on the logistics delivery man or the guard man in cities, “RMB 100,000”, an equivalence of $12,000 (=€15,000) per year. I thought of how much Yuan spend in one night, or how valuable my friend’s battery company could be in the Capitalist world, I gradually understood.
As my wifi search finally drove me crazy and I had to leave China to the free world, my dad said, “What is going wrong with you? I have wifi and it looks great.”
He does not use gmail of course. I thought of how the friend said, “It’s out there, it’s just you did not see.”
Similar to our worlds? Ain’t inequality, the sheer comparison of modern innovation and lacklustre slowness of human behaviours prevalent in all of our worlds?
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