Picture captions - Lobby chandelier, Intercontinental Hotel, New CBD, Hangzhou; this is one of the most beautiful and dramatic indoor spaces I have ever seen. Goes to show what you can do with a great deal of money and thoughtful planning.
Gan'en Church construction in 2013, Xianfu Lu, Yuhang District, Hangzhou; this church was under construction for a couple of years, and operating when we left Hangzhou. Don't know of its status now, under the new regime. CCP members compare the current environment to that in the Cultural Revolution.
Rusting railing on 40,000,000 yuan villa, Hangzhou; new construction is easy; maintenance is hard. One sees that repeated endlessly in the new China and in many ways. And background, Tang-era paining, no author credit. I liked the reflection, as it were, of aspects of the modern in the painting. The Tang is one of the celebrated dynasties of China, for its development and openness.
About me –
Moving to China in 2009 was a life changing experience for me … and actually, the life-changing began when teaching Chinese government officials at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 2003. The students were getting a master’s degree in public administration. I was teaching courses in real estate, regional economic development, public policy and negotiation. I also began long friendships with many of the students, now in senior positions in governments in Zhejiang, Liaoning, and Yunnan provinces.
Before that, a mostly Chicago career – bachelor’s in civil engineering (Notre Dame) but only a little actual practice in engineering (I did design a bridge deck supporting a hot metal car, pouring into ingot molds at Inland Steel in Indiana) ... masters in urban systems engineering and policy planning (Northwestern) and some significant experience in transportation system modeling and planning (modeled relocation of the Rock Island commuter trains in downtown Chicago) … PhD in public policy analysis (University of Illinois-Chicago) and much work for Chicago neighborhood development organizations at the Center for Urban Economic Development (UICUED) – created an organization of suburban mayors for information sharing, advocacy, and cost reductions … experience in commercial and light industrial real estate development for my own account and some clients, including the Fulton-Carroll business incubator in Chicago … teaching at UIC and IIT. Twin daughters, Brenna and Rachel, now grown, and for you sniggerers out there, a six year old son, Ben. I live in Evanston, Illinois. My wife is Chinese. Already more than you wanted to know, but there it is.
About the site -
Maybe it is the Golden Mean. Or the Golden Rule. Or the Silver Rule. Or the Middle Way, or "moderation in all things." My China experience, while wonderful and life changing, was also a celebration of seeing China with a wide lens. I celebrated holidays in farmhouses with dirt floors and in government-only hotels and restaurants and resorts. I ate street food and government-only rice and vegetables (only for vice-mayor levels and higher, those for whom the pollution of the food chain mattered). The term for the salary and job classification for my Chinese government students was, in fact, "midlevel." Some importance in their jobs, perhaps a lot, but not yet a vice mayor of a large city or higher. Some of them attained that higher status when they returned to China. I taught at Zhejiang University of Science and Technology (ZUST) which is a middling level school in Hangzhou. ZUST is a provincial level school, not one of those supported directly by the central government, like Tsinghua or Beida. I always thought of ZUST as the Western Illinois University of Zhejiang Province. I am wont to think that Daniel Bell, the political philosopher with pet CCP status at Beida, would benefit by getting out of Beijing and getting his hands a little dirty. My school in Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, for all its talented and very smart teachers, is a level 2 research university - not Northwestern or University of Chicago, but the next level. Chicago is, in fact, in the middle of the US, with the conflicts that cities on the coasts can wish away with money and ideas from outside. We are a version of middle America.
My students at ZUST were a broad mix, including the foreign students from every place that China was doing resource and infrastructure deals, all over Africa and the -stans in the ancient middle east, plus Germany, Spain, Romania, Finland, and a couple other European nations. But not one student, in seven years, from the US, Australia, New Zealand, or Japan. Two or three from India, a bunch from Indonesia. I had Chinese students from very poor economic backgrounds in the countryside, and I had a student apologize for coming back to school a couple of days late from a Qingming vacation - his parents had taken him skiing in New Zealand. I taught economics, modern Chinese economic history and negotiation in the business school, and some urban planning courses for the civil engineers and urban planners. In a bizarre period, I taught an American history course and then an American politics course to civil engineers who wanted to go to the US for a joint program. I used the Eric Foner Give Me Liberty! as a text, which caused no end of discussions with the CCP leaders about why that book with that name and then how to import the book into China.
These are stories from over the years of teaching, in Chicago and Hangzhou, on trips with my government students and with friends in China, and then some analysis (soon to come) of my understanding of what makes China and Chinese so different. As to the name of this site - as China develops, we see reflections of our own history, and as China pulls past the US in many ways, we see part of our potential future. It is inevitable that two very large countries will have some similar problems, and sometimes similar solutions. In both the similarities and the differences, we can learn. I hope to advance that project.
The view from the middle is the most informed view, I think. There are plenty of foreign teachers at the big name schools in China - in Hangzhou, Zhejiang University. But sometimes the view from the top makes one squint too hard to see the bottom - as if one can see not wisely, but too well. No doubt many will say that I am not seeing too well in any case. I hope you enjoy the site, and learn some things.
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