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Andy’s Travel Diary

Friday, 23 Feb 2007

Location: China


China, country six of my journey, is constantly in the news. The third largest country on earth, with a fifth of the world's population there is much to talk about in this colossus of a country. But academics and the media are only mesmerised by the epic transformation underway, and the seismic shifts sent through its society, foreign countries, and the international system more broadly.

China is on everyones lips. Hypnotised by its double-digit GDP growth, forests of construction cranes and mushrooming middle class, business leaders and companies are giddy about the opportunities this second industrial revolution and the emergence of a two trillion dollar economy presents. It often seems like the whole world is knocking on China's door for a piece of this huge pie, from James Bond to Ronald McDonald.

Poised to overtake the United States by mid-century (or in little over a decade by some optimistic forecasts) to become the world's economic superpower, many commentators are talking of the Chinese century.

But while everyone is mesmerised by the success story of China's development, supposedly driven by free-market economics, they miss out other aspects of a complex and dynamic picture; one of the world's argest disparities between urban rich and rural poor, a 750 million strong peasantry, huge environmental degradation and health problems.

China is a land of stark and deep contrasts, a country of Yin and Yang. From Shangahi, that densely overpopulated shrine to hypermodernity, to the sparse, dusty villages of the far West. From the agricultural plains of the Yangtze River valley in East Asia, to the dry Gobi Desert of Central Asia. And from the rich history of one one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations (dating back six millenia), to its more recent 'Communist' past. It is this which makes China such a tempting travel destination. In short it would be very easy to spend years exploring what the country can offer - i had just under two months, enough time merely to scratch the surface.