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Full Circle

Day 71: Guiyang

Michael Palin - Full CircleIt is selfish, I know, but with dragonflies on the ponds and swallows and swifts dipping and diving over the terraces and no sound louder than the human voice I'd rather Shimeng didn't change at all. This feeling is only reinforced by what I see on the journey back into Guiyang - the pervading dirt, the indiscriminate smear of pollution from new, unfettered industries, the apparent disregard for basic living standards. Everything that can be seen in photographs and engravings of Victorian Manchester or Sheffield or Glasgow or Birmingham or the East End of London.

The people of Guiyang don't seem to mind. They carry on - busy, purposeful, preoccupied, their sense of optimism and determination as palpable as the foul air they breathe. Despite the mess they live in their faces show little doubt or sorrow. Some are hurt and some are desperate, but for the rest there is a sense of self-belief, a feeling that the tide of history is turning their way. They are probably right. China is on the verge of success it has not tasted for a thousand years. There is precious little that can prevent it from becoming, in the lifetime of the Priscillas and the Miss Lius, if not the most powerful nation on earth then at least a first among equals. The difference between now and Mao's time is that the Chinese are looking out at the world and wanting to join in. The lead story on the ten o'clock news is the visit of the Finnish Prime Minister and Giscard d'Estaing, ex-President of France. China no longer ignores the foreigner.

As if on cue my telephone rings.

'Excuse, please, Sir. Are you in need of a Miss?'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 71
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Shimeng
  • Book page no: 104

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