|Shanghai in the mist|
There is a sense in which China is at a point of inflection - the middle classes, vibrant, wilful and more outspoken than formerly, growl mutinously under the sternness of their rulers, corruption is on an epic scale and environmental degradation is horrendous - small children wear 'Hello Kitty' facemasks routinely. The collective, nevertheless, is still the primary social lever - in aeroplanes people chatter loudly like starlings, oblivious to the discomfort felt by individuals - after all, what do they matter anyway? Yet, for them, such behaviour is normal in its indifference. They push against one, the envelope of personal space is different. Their hospitality is, however, generous to the point of embarrassment - we were invited to a private dinner party in Shanghai by a well-known artist and the dishes just kept coming.
By contrast, Australians are characteristically brash, mostly. Signs on bars proclaim ‘we’re open till we’re shut’. Sydney isan easy, relaxed town where the second and third generation of risk-takers from Europe have carved out a life for themselves in the rough sandstone of the bush with initiative, ability and flair. Singaporeans are tight, disciplined and impossibly clean, even by my standards. They wait patiently at the ‘don’t walk’signs, without a vehicle in sight. Small boys attend taekwondo classes accompanied by their nannies, walking through districts named and organised by decades of British influence, or, perhaps imperialism. Hong Kong is exciting,rich and brassy; China meets Park Avenue with more Bentleys per square kilometer than anywhere else on the planet.
Normally, I like to post pictures, but on this occasion I won't; instead posting them all at a later date. The ones I have are a metaphor for how I felt at the time. But, more of this later.