Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Up the Yangtze

September 23, 2010

Recently I watched a documentary movie called ‘Up the Yangtze.’ Set against the backdrop of the of the Three Gorges Dam project, the movie illustrates how the lives of various people of differing backgrounds are altered by the controlled flooding of the mighty Yangtze River.

Most documentaries on China – particularly modern China, seem to have a large focus on poverty, and the same is true here. One of the films subjects is a small family who live in a beaten down old shanty by the shore of the river. The family grows their own vegetables and effectively lives with little to nothing, merely scratching out an existence with their bare hands and feet.

The families’ eldest daughter, who later takes the English name Cindy, wishes to continue her studying but in a common scenario, the family cannot afford it. Instead, she is sent to work on a ship which cruises up and down the river, entertaining foreigners.

On the ship we also meet one of the other main subjects, a cocksure arrogant young fellow named Jerry who comes from a middle class family. While charming and endearing at face value, Jerry has learned how to siphon tips from the tourists and his increasing over-confidence ultimately leads to his downfall on the ship.

The movie covers various themes though the issue of poverty and displacement is the most harrowing.

While at times the movie felt staged, I feel it was more trying to tell a story of the people of the river, rather than stage a soap-opera style drama. Having lived in China, I found it both familiar and depressing and a really fantastic view of a country that has so many layers that we rarely see even half of them.

If anything, one of the primary feelings I felt throughout, was distaste for the foreign guests aboard the ship. While they weren’t doing anything necessarily wrong, and if anything were helping the staff aboard the ship with their generous tips. Though deep into the movie when an old white man was singing an atrocious song about the Chinese language, I couldn’t help but feel repulsed by the way in which we often look at this amazing, old culture


The chains of love

February 5, 2010

In what can only be described as Chinese Child Care, father Chen Chuanliu; an unlicensed Beijing rickshaw rider, must chain his two year old son, Lao Lu, to a pole, each time he sets out on a fare for fear of losing him. Making a mere few dollars per day, and with a disabled wife who is forced to roam the streets for recyclable rubbish, Chen is a migrant worker from Sichuan province, and has few options to protect his son from child stealers; an issue that is rampant throughout China. It was only recently that his four year old daughter Ling was stolen, and without even a photograph of her, he has no way of even putting up lost child posters.

This kind of story is humorous at a glance, but when you dig deeper into the specifics, it tells of the hardship that affects literally millions of Chinese every day – particularly those migrant workers who have come into the cities from the countryside. While to Chen and his family it is simply life and must be dealt with as it comes, for him, looking after his family is the most important thing.

Child stealing is a massive issue in China, with children being sold to those people who cannot have their own – or worse, as cheap labour in remote mines. Thousands of children are stolen each year, with most of them never being seen again by their original families. With both mother and father working, what options are left? Once concerned individuals noticed the chained child, authorities ordered the chains to be removed, but is leaving a two year old, alone in a 9 ft single room apartment any better?

China is a fascinating country, where explosive growth is taking it into an unknown future, but despite all the glitz and glamour of the modern business centre’s and high-rises’, at the core is often extreme poverty – a problem that is not going to resolve itself anytime soon.

China is facing its most ‘difficult year’ this century.

March 5, 2009

Well, we’re only nine years into the new century, but this one will prove to be the most difficult one for China. Unlike many other countries, China’s change has been nothing short of astounding. The country has enjoyed 10 years of what you could call ‘extreme growth,’ and this year, Premier Wen Jibao has announced it will be a difficult year.

So what happens when the global economy forces the steaming loco of an economy that is China? Already unrest has shown its ugly head in the rural areas where people already hit hard by poverty, are hit harder again by unemployment.

China has come an amazing distance, quite possibly shaking off the 3rd world country tag, slipping comfortably into the developing country description. But what happens if it ends? China needs to progress. China needs to continue to fill the horizon with building sites and transport infrastructure. What happens if it finally catches up? All these single task workers – the builders in particular, are suddenly unemployed.

The Chinese government, like many other foreign nations, is looking to employ financial stimulus packages to try and alleviate the burden. It will be interesting to see just how cool calm and collected the greater Chinese populace can remain. One thing is for sure though, this is a country that has survived 5000 years of often turbulent history. If there is one thing the Chinese excel at, it would be enduring.

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