Observations from my fourth visit to China since 1999.
The first time I went to China was to see the fabled Three Gorges of the Yangtze before the completion of the grand dam at Sandoping. The second time was to experience skiing in Heilongjiang Province, north of North Korea. The third was to see the completed dam and sail through a lock. And the fourth time was for the Society of American Travel Writers 2016 Convention. Here are some observations about the China scene:
- In cities, more skyscrapers and residential highrises (many built on former farmland on the outskirts). The national bird of China is the construction crane.
- Incredible transportation infrastructure improvements. To try to help those of the country’s 1.385 billion who wish to get around do so, there are new tollroads, new bullet trains and new metros all over this sprawling country. China is working hard to provide public transportation, but those who can afford them remain enamored of their cars.
- Whistle-clean cities, kept that way by squadrons of street cleaners — individuals with brooms. Part of the full-employment situation.
- Still a lot of smoking, but a lot less public spitting than during my previous visits.
- Tourist-oriented vendors moved from the entrances to major attractions (such as the Terracotta Warriors near Xi’an) to the exits,
- Serious commitment to recycling.
- Impressive tree-planting projects in cities, as former dense low-rise neighborhoods are replaced by far taller buildings with significantly smaller footprints.
- Creation of more and more “scenic areas” and “cultural attractions” for the benefit of both domestic and international visitors.