I've been in China for almost five years. That's a frightening fact in itself. Given that time period, it would be reasonable to expect some changes. Hype provided by both the Chinese government media as well as foreign media suggest that China's current mantra is change: Change for the millions seeking economic upward mobility; change for China's openness (or sometimes lack thereof) to the world; change for the business climate and all the infrastructure that underpins it.
These examples are quite easily seen. Entire neighborhoods are being leveled to make way for leviathans of infrastructure and compositions of sky-sculpture from the trendiest architecture firms. But, five years spent in China reveal that these changes are just more of the same. Perhaps there is a more subtle evolution happening behind the veil of smog and skyscraper-barnacled horizons. The scenery of construction hasn't changed much in five years--recently-built streets experience precious few months of harmony before they are torn up and rebuilt-- but how about the people? Are they also merely static noise--a chaos abstraction--in their hearts, or have they reached new equilibrium points in that time period?
That's not a question I'm not prepared to answer at the moment. I have to ponder more on some of the conversations I've been having with various Chinese.
What I am prepared to talk about are some of the habits and behaviors that I found so fascinating on arrival in China. Habits aren't easy to change--says the computer game addict--and yet I've seen them do so.
NB: I now live in Nanjing, a far more cosmopolitan city than either Lianyungang or Chongqing. Some changes in attitude and dress might be reflections of that quality.
I remember a blog post from my first year in China. I excoriated the fashion-sense to be seen on the streets, and affirmed a (Chinese-American) college classmate's joke about the main external difference between Japanese and Koreans, and Mainland Chinese being the lack of fashion sense demonstrated by the latter. Does this unkind joke still make sense? Not from my observations on the streets of Nanjing in 2010. Perhaps off-brand, quirky Chinese outlets are still selling clothing meant for Martian prostitutes (in 50's B-movies) in the hinterlands, but it is no longer often to be seen in the major cities. It seems the Chinese fashion scene has reached accordance with world fashion in general--even if quirky bits of Chinglish still proclaim themselves from the otherwise sensible clothes.
Spitting. What foreign observer doesn't like to comment on the state of China's saliva, and whether it currently patters down on sidewalks from Harbin to Kashgar? My own observation is that public spitting is still alive and well amongst the country-folk and older generations, but its frequency seems to have greatly decreased--at least here in Nanjing. I only hear the torturing of tonsils followed by a watery 'thwack' about once or twice a week. Public campaigns for 'civilized behaviors' seem to have had an impact.