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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 46: 9 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysTalk to two journalists from Shanghai. She is 32, he's 33. In the last ten years they have seen their salaries increase and the freedom of the press widen. They are proud of the fact that their newspaper - The People's Evening News - is not a government mouthpiece and has a circulation of 1.8 million. The view of Shanghai people is that the process of opening up - Chinese glasnost - should continue. The irony is that it has not changed Shanghai, which always enjoyed a privileged and independent status, even under Mao. The recent improvements have allowed the rest of the country to catch up and Shanghai's privileged position is now threatened.

At Xiaoshan industry intrudes onto the Arcadian landscape, dust and smoking chimneys, coal heaps and piles of ballast everywhere.

I meet the nearest thing to a Chinese yuppy, a 24-year-old girl in smart Western-style outfit who has learnt English with an American accent. I ask her where she works and she replies, without a pause for breath: 'China National Light Industrial Products Import and Export Corporation Shanghai Branch'. She's returning from the Canton Trade Fair where she has been selling hurricane and kerosene lamps. I ask what she thinks of the Chinese one-child policy.

'Well, I don't want any children,' she says with great determination. 'We have too many people.'

But she concedes that most of her fellow Chinese wouldn't agree with her. She works a six-day week and for relaxation likes the cinema and going out with her old classmates. She likes Western films but Waterloo Road was the only title she could remember seeing recently.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 46
  • Date: 9 November
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Guangzhou
  • Book page no: 157

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