Posts Tagged 'China'

China’s U-Turn On The One Child Policy

On July 24th, China announced a “partial-lift” on it’s one child policy, which means that urban couples who were each only single children will be allowed to have two children. In the past, urban couples were only allowed one child, rural couples, who had a girl as their first child were always allowed to have a second child and ethnic minorities were exempted from the one-child policy completely.

What has it done for China, so far?

People over 60 make up 22 per cent of the city’s total population, a number that is expected to grow to 34 per cent in 2020. China’s “one-child” policy, first implemented in 1979, has resulted in 400 million fewer births, according to the government, based on the source here, and this could potentially have inverted the demographics in favor of younger generation (85:15) at the cost of a larger population, overall.

To begin with there are speculations abound that, the one-child policy did not achieve much. Birth rate fell from 2.9 (1979) gradually over 25 years and stablized at 1.7 (2004). However, for a short 10 year period preceding the policy the birth rate fell from 5.9 to 2.9. Also, East-Asian neighbors have achieved much lower birth rates during the same time period – Hongkong (0.91), Singapore (1.04), Japan (1.38), according to the source – here.

How Will China React?

Many people used to the concept of a single child, as they grew up, may not want to go for the option For quite a few of the rest, the need to spend a hefty amount on child rearing, limitation on personal time and probably even hindrance with their professional careers might be reason enough not to opt for it. So, what does that leave us with? A probable option of willing, ageing grand parents raising the second child! Whatever it is, it is going to be another radical shift that the population will endure and cope with, in less than a generation, as the world watches on.

For me, personally, this is a quiet moment of reflection on the long term, voluntary, 2-child policy adopted by India which was a balanced approach towards handling demographics while reining in the population.

My Chinese Impressions – Part 8

Me n’ Entertainment in China…

Online and TV Entertainment

The interesting blogs I found ranged from China bashing to ones that helped me learn some Chinese to ones that very passionately went along in the Mandarin script – depriving me of the valuable insights that they were offering.

In my TV entertainment section if I don’t mention Bloomberg, I would be missing out on something important. Most of the nights when I returned to my hotel room from work and switched on the TV, there was Bloomberg had a fumbling Maithreyi Raman who gave me company. She generally analyzed hi-tech stocks on Bloomberg and had me all amused when she fumbled her way merrily along for many weeks on just basic number reporting off the charts. Left me thinking who gave her the job, anyway?

The fake DVD cartel

Outside of all major malls and shopping areas in Shanghai, there runs a very organized and low cost and surprisingly, fixed price fake DVD Cartel. It is so organized and the price is so well-known that you don’t have to interact with the person who is standing with the DVDs. All you need to do is browse through their collection, chose the ones you want, give him the fixed price/DVD and walk away. These provided entertainment for several days…

Around Shanghai in less than 2 days 🙂

My first few weeks in Shanghai, I was looking to go explore something unique. There was an acrobatic show at a cultural center and I dragged my colleague to see the show. The show was a disaster – with the acrobats falling down a couple of times and overall nothing spectacular. What was more, it was less of a “ethnic cultural” thing and more of an “china culture showcase for expats/foriengers” thing, but we did have some good food at the restaurant attached to the cultural center!

Later, towards the end of my stay in Shanghai, we went on a whirlwind tour of Shanghai – ranging from some cultural landmarks to pub hopping (believe me, pubs in Shanghai are extremely cosmopolitan with respect to the crowd as well as music played). There is a club called “M on the Bund” very close to the Bund in Shanghai where the DJ even plays Hindi music and I noticed names like “Arundhati Roy” in invitee list for some event at the pub!

Anyhow, spicy food at a side alley near a Buddhist temple in Shanghai, random pub hopping where a few girls almost jumped on top of my one colleagues, locating the Arabian Nights restaurant with belly dancers (we reached their way past the dance time, though!) and finally eating Greek food on the same street…are a few experiences I will never forget!

Hangzhou – Venice of the East

Picture of West Lake with the Pagoda in the background at Hangzhou (also known as Venice of the East)

My Chinese Impressions – Part 7

Democracy, Communism, what the heck!

If you ever thought about India and China – democracy, communism and the impact on people would have crossed your mind. Well, me being me and having the tendency to ignore the over-hyped stuff – I ignored all the ruckus around me on restrictive information access in China. I thought, how tough can it really be if I don’t know what I’m missing – I’m not really going to be affected – right? Right in a way, but that is where the catch was, to begin with.

As I was browsing in my hotel room in Shanghai, the shocking revelation of dawned on me. A lot of websites were blocked, news was filtered, some of my favorite blogs were blocked (heck, some entire blog platforms were blocked) and I was squirming at the message on the browser like a child who had set its heart on something and couldn’t get it…knowing very well that it was within reach and maybe, (the well-intentioned) parents had hidden it from view.

Well, I did think about this a lot later and it was a good opportunity to discuss with colleagues and friends off-hand while I was in China. Some of our longer taxi conversations evolved into long winded politically loaded discussions with people taking strong sides…on are people genuinely happier in a democracy? Has democracy really delivered, what is this hype about? What about the monarchies we used to have 400-500 years ago – were they happier times? What does a communist state imply? Are our bureaucracy and judiciary systems running communist states of their own? Who is responsible for welfare in a federal, democratic state in which people still identify themselves by the factional caste they belong to rather than the nation? If there is growth and progress around and people around you also had similar lack of rights to own property or have more than one child – would it really bite you that you didn’t have those rights?

My Chinese Impressions – Part 6

Continuing on my series of experiences in Shanghai in this post, I want to write about two of my memorable experiences – one that lasted the entire trip and I marveled at its efficiency day in and day out, and the other that lasted a few minutes but is etched in my mind and perhaps would last forever…

The All Pervasive, Always Available – Taxi Culture

For me the efficient taxi culture in Shanghai, as a visitor, was the best part of the experience. Not to belittle, anything else, but when a piece of machinery in a state works so efficiently that there is no scope (or even the mere thought) of fleecing a naive or guliable foreigner – that too in a developing nation – the effort needs to be applauded.

The taxis are available almost everywhere. Given street name and building number will get you there without any cheating (ok, there is some bit here and there, but it can be largely ignored in the larger scheme of things and given the number of taxi rides I have taken). Meter will be promptly used and no haggling on charges – ever! Once, I thought I was being taken for a ride and started haggling in my broken Chinese (much to my boss’s amusement), but only to realize that it was indeed the right fare and we were not being cheated.

Well, for people in the developed countries this might seem a trivial experience but anybody who is well traveled in India will sigh a relief reading this bit about Shanghai, because this efficiency is not easy to achieve. They might not know today, but on account of this service I would rate them on par with any US/European cab ride I have taken – of course, only cheaper and faster (they don’t strictly wait till the red light turns green at signals…)

Nanjing Trip

Nanjing literally means the south capital (Beijing being the north) and is a large city with a thriving economy. We were doing a customer visit and traveled via train to get there. My experience has to do with the landing at Nanjing station. As we descended the stairs to get out of the platform, I saw a sight of this large human wave, with no space between any two individuals at any point – in, around, behind or in front of me – converging towards a common point from three different directions to move outwards. For a moment, I thought I might faint, there must have been more than 3000 odd people trying to get down the steep fleet of stairs all at the same time to the same point. As I did a quick check on my senses, I was gripped with a fear that I might be tossed up into the air as there would no space on the landing podium.

Luckily, nothing bad happened, the crowd descended at its own pace, went merrily outside the station and busy with their lives – I think, just the sheer scale of handling such a large crowd day in day out within such an efficient train system is a great feat in itself and people being so cool about moving in and out of such large crowded spaces is something that beats me!

My friends tell me that it might be because I have never lived in Mumbai and I must experience the metro to believe it…I guess, I will someday, until then – this goes down in my memory lane as the largest crowd experience ever!

My Chinese Impressions – Part 5

Funny and a few interesting foodie experiences in Shanghai…

Ordering Aloo Paratha at the Indian Kitchen

I had blogged previously about how I figured out Indian Kitchen in Jian Qiao. This was find indeed for me and excited as I was, decided to order Aloo Paratha, which is a standard Indian dish made with potato boiled, mashed with spices and rolled within wheat rolls and roasted on a pan with lots of ghee. Now, what I got instead was aloo pizza (mashed potato topping on top of wheat bread). I found the twist on “our aloo paratha” hilariously funny!

How we arrived at FACE!

After the previous incident, I re-started my search for Indian food and found an address which seemed to be pretty close to the office in Pudong and my colleague and I started our journey towards this new place in a taxi. We arrived at a Government guest house and the taxi guy continued his journey inside – there was not a soul in sight even to ask for directions or to know if we had the wrong address and were to end up in jail within the next couple of minutes for trespassing or whatever! However, we arrived at the best Indian Restaurant in Shanghai (also one of the costliest…) – it’s called FACE. I can vouch for it, I have eaten at the restaurant twice and both the times the price and effort of getting there was worth it. However, I can never forget the random thoughts that were racing through our minds the first time we were about to find the best Indian restaurant in Shanghai…!!!

Belgian Chocolate Foundue

Saving the best for the last. I’ve learned that the Indian way of speaking English and our pronunciation of certain words are too fast and far away from their vocabulary for the Chinese. It is not the right or wrong, it is just not their way…that’s it. Now, my colleague and I strongly believe that the night at the restaurant near our hotel we ordered Belgian Fudge or something like that, but instead what we got changed our concept of dessert forever – lots of freshly cut fruits and melted Belgian dark chocolate (kept that way using a small candle flame below the pot) and do I need to say anymore..I don’t think it made a damn difference what we ordered, what we got made us really happy!!!

My Chinese Impressions – Part 4

Being a vegetarian in China

I think, of all the things I want to talk about China and my experiences there, this should be in the top 10 and it is…so here we go:

The day I fell sick

2 days after I arrived in Shanghai, I had my stomach twirling in all kinds of wild ways that it could and my head aching from the constant pain. A quick snapshot of thoughts running through my head, “How hard can it really be? Food is food, rice is rice right? I have eaten Chinese food in India as well as in the US, I even like it! Then what went wrong?” After thinking a bit, I realized, I had eaten ‘sticky rice” the previous night and not being quite used to eating semi cooked rice, my stomach might have overreacted. I kept away from sticky rice, the entire trip and to imagine, I had packed up a lot of “allied food material” with me, thinking, worst case, will make a meal of it with sticky rice

Ordering vegetarian food in Chinese

Most restaurants in China carry pictures of the food that they have listed on their menu. It is so colorful and appetizing…except it is not vegetarian! Trust me, staring at menus that were wholly composed of exotic non-vegetarian dishes you cannot eat, attempting to ordering vegetarian dishes to a Chinese waiter (who either fall into the category of sympathizers – “Oh! what a shame” or assume all sea food is vegetarian!) and of course, not to mention that ensuring the oil used to cook the food is not animal based, was an adventure in itself..

However, I did find an elegant way out of this mess – I got flash cards written with information on specific vegetarian dishes, instructions on what is vegetarian and usage of vegetarian oil for cooking. Now I had eased the communication and hoped and prayed that they executed it – because, seriously, if I were eating alone, I wouldn’t even know the difference!!!

9 and counting…

Well…now, that is the different kinds of Chinese noodles I ate ranging from Shanghainese to Cantonese. There are, in fact, subtle differences in tastes too – but I got tired of ordering different kinds of vegetarian noodles and really, badly ached for some Indian food…(of all people, me who when outside India, always liked to try global cuisines…and avoid Indian food)

I did wonder about this later, when I was well fed, maybe the experience of eating global cuisines in, say US or India or Europe, is eased up by the cultural setting in which it is offered and in the restaurant’s attempt to attract a global crowd they offer their culture, menu, food and ambiance in a manner that suits a global palette.

But, to really enjoy Chinese food, one has to go with a local Chinese who would explain the intricacies of the cooking, eating and ingredients to you, even order an exquisite vegetarian spread which would have definitely missed your eye on the menu! And, I had the great fortune of having several of these experiences with some of my Chinese hosts.

Want to go HOME!

By now, my craving for Indian food had reached its peak and I really wanted to go home (just so I could eat food that I liked)….the only Indian restaurant I knew in Shanghai was about 45 mins away from my office and though I could make that trip for dinner, if I wanted, my lunch was still not taken care of. I started searching on the internet, in earnest in the hope that I will find a decent Indian place to eat and lo behold! what I found was Jian Qiao – it was way beyond what I had asked for. This was a mall right in the center of an expat settlement in Shanghai and catered to the global crowd – there was an Indian restaurant (Indian Kitchen), a Carrefour, a nice gelato place and even an American style “burger place” (although high end) – called Blue Frog – where I eventually spent many of my Sundays eating burger brunches and drinking chocolate milkshakes in the restaurant’s balcony.

“Sour Bites”

Sometimes an international experience teaches you some things that you take for granted about you or your life style and even some things that you didn’t even know about yourself. I realized that I sorely missed the sour taste commonly found in many Indian dishes, which seemed to be missing in most of what I ate in China!

This post has already been stretched too long and I wanted to write about a few more funny foodie experiences that I had in China…maybe in a later post…ciao for now.

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