Having just returned from an extensive five-city / Yangtze River tour of China, it is amazing just how progressive this country has become since its cultural revolution a few short decades ago.
Putting aside some air pollution haze from coal-burning power plants and incessant traffic, China seems motivated to grow leaps and bounds over most other countries in the world. High rise apartments reach for the sky and seem to be going up everywhere. Subways, mag-lev and bullet trains run fast and on schedule. Graffiti, litter, homeless and beggars are non-existent. Airports are massive glass and marble structures that make anything here seem small and outdated. Security is tight, efficient and courteous, without waiting in long lines.
Everyone, I mean everyone, is working at something, whether painting overpasses, picking weeds on highway medians, planting and harvesting, or sweeping streets with what appeared to be homemade brooms.
Modern China is proud of what it has accomplished before and since the 2008 Olympic Games put the country in the spotlight of the world. Artifacts and cultural heritage items of ancient China are preserved in ultra-modern museums in every major city.
A visit to China would not have been complete without visits to the spectacular Great Wall, Terra Cotta Army, Ming Tombs, the Forbidden City, old Shanghai and, of course, the giant pandas. The Yangtze River and Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric power station in the world (equal to eight nuclear plants) were awe-inspiring, considering that villages and residents had to be relocated to new cities 300 feet higher than the original river flow.
Hutongs (narrow, ancient alleys) in traditional Chinese neighborhoods were plied by rickshaw for better viewing and offered the experience of "street food" like chicken feet, pig tails, wok fried fish, spicy brine shrimp, crab, squid and even scorpion on-a-stick. And yes, the Peking duck is delicious.
Ancient Chinese dress has been replaced by western style clothing and upscale chic. "Spendy/trendy" shops abound in larger city shopping malls. Despite the new look and feel, culture demands that children keep their parents "as close as a warm bowl of soup" (not far away) ... something that has been lost here for a very long time.
From this writer's perspective, China is doing something right, and in this "Year of the Rabbit," projected 9.7 percent growth puts them far ahead of most countries.
Put China on your "bucket list" of places to see and experience ... something you won't soon regret or forget.
Doug Miller of Flagstaff is a member of the Daily Sun's Editorial Advisory Board.