China In My Hands


I had never been to China before up until a few weeks ago. I was packed off to Wuhan in the province of Hubei which is the middle of China and two hours away from Hong Kong by plane. We landed at Wuhan airport which was very small and very old. The immigration check was weird and it seemed we were being assessed by our reactions to being stared at by the officials as much as by the state of our travel documentation. Oddly our cases were not screened in the usual way but instead a sniffer dog was employed to smell each bag on the carousel as the luggage went round. Tell me, what does a gun or knife smell of? Anyway off we were whisked to an area of town where we had dealings and as we walked around we were again being stared at like we were aliens. Not a nice stare either but glances of aggressive bemusement and fear. Luckily our guides were with us and we quickly scuttled back in the van and off to our luxury hotel.

I didn’t know that Basil Fawlty had a Chinese brother until now but it seems he is running a five story hotel in central Wuhan. There were no dead bodies or obnoxious Americans but the rooms were not good. Ours was dirty and the whole floor from the elevator onwards stunk of rubbish or something equally rotten. Still downstairs we ventured and into the café for some mid afternoon refreshments. Ignoring the dead flies on the window sill and after moving seats twice, we ordered fries and tea as it was the only thing I was sure wouldn’t give us food poisoning. 50 minutes later they arrived in true Acorn Antiques fashion but by then I was past caring. I had to stop comparing my western expectations of service with the realities of China and it was pointless being outraged because the country doesn’t know its arse from its elbow. China is like our hotel – outwardly it is trying to be modern but inside it struggles to maintain this façade and the functions inevitably become a Chinese impression of a western system.

Nobody, but nobody, speaks English. The people of Wuhan, save my immediate associates, have any idea, or maybe any inclination, about the world outside and consequently you are unusual as soon as you walk around outside. We decided to go for a walk after our chips and everyone was checking us out. One guy spat, not at us you understand, but spitting like they do in Cowboy films in that semi-menacing kind of way. I felt worried which I really wasn’t expecting but I will tell you how it is and that is how it was. That evening we were taken for dinner and made to feel very relaxed and our hosts were curious if a little cautious. They tried getting me drunk a la Rover but I wasn’t having any of it. The food was interesting to say the least; boiled hairy crab, snake, sharks fin soup and pigeon – no holds barred eating. I was placed in the spot of honour and our translators were saviours as they were studying in London so we had lots to talk about and it was interesting to get their impressions of the UK. Not all good which is fair enough. We had to leave the next day so off to the airport we went. Oddly the officials seemed even more suspicious when leaving rather than when we arrived but we made it through.

I am left with the impression that
China is not a barrel of laughs. It is struggling with this halfway house of capitalism under a communist state rule which makes for an odd juxtaposition between Gucci and highly trained soldiers and secret police. The polluted air hung over Wuhan like a suffocating blanket and the older people must struggle to understand what is happening to their county as their town develops awash with loot and make no mistake the avergae Chinese citizen is still very very poor. The whole place seems uneasy but as an insight into China it was priceless and I doubt trips to Shanghai or Beijing could show an outsider how the average plebs of China live. Seeing as my new home is Hong Kong I have to understand how the Chinese part of this place works which I didn’t really get until after this trip. I now see how Hong Kong could have been had it not been for the colonial influence on these shores. Yes, Hong Kong is China but really it isn’t and despite the influx of Chinese after 97 it still is a million miles from Wuhan.

2 Responses to “China In My Hands”

  1. Razza says:

    Thanks for the article.
    It is worthwhle read beacuse of youre honesty in youre opinion.

    Albeit I think you are being unfair to youre Host country China. Surely China is larger and has a longer history the England and I think you would have a much different experiance if you made the effort to master there language.

    How would a Uk citizen react if a visitor was expecting him answers in Chinese?

    And China is prospering DESPITE british colonialism and looting over the centuries.

    The sun shines on everyone make and effort master the language and stay humble if you cant hear the chinese rythm how can you dance?

    reaxamine youreself and give us another report from Wuhan in Chinese preferably.

    Best regards/Razza
    expat in asia.

  2. jingjok says:

    I think you miss the point Razza.Despite Chain being an older, continuous society it is far less advanced than the UK. Thats fact. China was making gunpowder and using paper money when the British were in caves but alas they did nothing with their technological advancements as they had no interest outside of the middle kingdom. They allowed everyone to catch them up and overtake them.

    You are arrogent to suggest my feelings are ignorent. Since this was written (a year ago) I have embraced china (not easy) and mastered some of the language. I work in China at least twice a week and now have Chinese friends. China, and Wuhan, is a shock to westerners as is the west to the Chinese that have never left their country and I think my post was honest. Chian has many fault and even you will admit that

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