Because of China’s growing worldwide influence, change within China has implications outside of its geographical borders. After many years of being a society predominantly closed to and from the West, today China’s doors are ajar. Shanghai was one of the few exceptions to China’s earlier exclusion of foreigners, with the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing opening up Shanghai to international trade and by 1854 to international concessions within the city. In the 1920s and 1930s Shanghai became a favourite destination for western elites and celebrities. Their perceived ideas of an exotic China were reflected in the concept of Shanghai as the Paris of the East’. The term metaphorically transposed the West onto the East and was materialized in the western-style buildings that border the Shanghai Bund. Although many of these buildings remain, they are now accompanied by contemporary skyscrapers such as those in the Pudong. This new part of Shanghai occupies the east bank of the Huangpo River, assertively facing the Bund and signifying a very different relationship between East and West today. While western architects have played a big role in China’s contemporary architecture, such architecture now speaks of China’s power, rather than that of the West.
Friedmann reminds us that both physical and consciousness changes taking place within China grow as much from internal catalysts as they do from external pressures (Friedmann: 2005). A slow transformation within internal introspection can be seen in the growing influence of what China observer John Garnaut calls the princelings’ (Garnaut 2011b), the now-adult children of former Cultural Revolution leaders. Although their beliefs may differ they are beginning to have a say in China’s future. The irony is that it is in China, not mainstream Western historiography, where the process of admitting other voices has begun’ (Garnaut 2011a). These other voices find their roots in Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door Policy of 1978, which marked a shift in attitude from the political orientation of Mao Zedong’s policies to a predominantly economic perspective. Such change in perspective interwove with shifts in consciousness. Special Economic Zones were set up and opened to foreign investment and trade. Seemingly-instant cities emerged such as Shenzhen that grew from a small fishing village in 1980 to the bustling city of today of some nine million people. The impact of such a rapid rate of urban density has extended well beyond economics to open new political as well as cultural questions for consideration. Among these are questions of who really played the key roles in China’s move to urbanization in contrast to what Garnaut describes as a time honoured tradition that each new Chinese dynasty gets to rewrite the history of its predecessor to legitimise its own rise to power’ (Garnaut 2011a). For example, some historians are now challenging Deng’s writing out of the role of Chairman Hua Guofeng, among others (Teiwes and Sun 2011). However history views Deng, without Urban Deng’ (Hu 2008: 147) and his imagining of an urban China, today’s China would be very different. Perhaps what Hua Guofeng’s re-inclusion tells us is that Deng was not alone in re-imagining China within an equally re-imagined urban world. In this process of re-accessing history within China the nature of the city itself has also come under review.
Though he added that in Mandarin they also call a camel Guangzhou Map Tourist Attractions a sand-boat (sha-mua). It was not until the following day that Guangzhou Map Tourist Attractions I found a suitable place to launch my canoe on to the Yellow RiveT. When I was down at water level the river looked bigger and far more powerful than I’d previously realised but at this stage it had no sizeable rapids or stopper holes, just a swirling flat torrent of yellow-brown water. My put-in place was on the inside of a bend. A camel watched me make ready the canoe and I waved goodbye to it as I paddled out into the current. Inside the bend the current was spinning back on itself, it was hard to make progress but after about thirty strokes I bounced over the trough demarcation between up- and down-stream currents, and was away at speed.
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