In China money is power. There is a clear dichotomy between the upper class and the lower class. Some people are fighting to feed their families while others are spending money as if it’s nothing to them. On the second to last day we went to a shop that sold t-shirts for over 200$ while the shop next door sold meals for less than a dollar. It’s clear that money means everything, even having more than one child is an expression of power due to the one child policy. Walking the streets we saw people driving imported cars while others were riding makeshift motorbikes.
One difference we saw was how social people are here. When everyone gathers for meals they all share several dishes rather than each person having one main meal. Another instance of this was when we went to Qinghua University one day and asked a student for directions, at first he told us that he was going that direction so he walked with us. Then, twenty minutes later, he was giving us a tour of the entire campus. It turned out he went far out of his way to help us. This happened multiple times when we were wandering, people would go out of their way to assist us. In northern China there was social business, which Shaohan’s father told us about. Having connections is a big part of business and progressing in companies. There is competition between bosses and higher ups within companies, but the majority of people rely on their social skills and connections.
Traditions and culture are common in China, even during this period of rapid modernization. The hospital, for instance, still had it’s original, 100 year old campus while still having tall, glass buildings behind them. The hospital’s museum, which was right across from the campus, looked as if they shouldn’t belong together, the difference in architecture and time periods were too apparent. This is true for culture as well. There are still traditions and ideals that are kept, such as the temples and rules surrounding them.
However, issues in China don’t only affect adults, but teenagers as well. We went to Dr. Liu’s friend’s company which specialized in parent therapy, teaching parents how to raise their kids and the psychology of children. One of the biggest problems with children are the entrance exams. These exams are a main cause of stress in students and has even led to suicide in extreme cases. So, her company helps parents prepare their children for something as stressful as these exams.
We’ve learned so much about the government in China, what business are like, and how Chinese teenagers deal with the stress of school. This trip has taught us about culture and the changing times in China and we’re happy to have experienced this.