Monday, September 2, 2013

Real China

I have been fortunate to experience a fair amount of travel in China over the last year. During these travels, people inevitably ask me where I live. When I tell them Shanghai, they smile and dramatically gesture at the landscape surrounding us while telling me, "Now you are seeing real China".


And I get it, I do. Shanghai is an international city and doesn't look like the vast majority of the rest of China. But the thing is, for the more than 20 million Chinese who live here, this is their reality. This is their real China.


Sure, there are over 300 million farmers in this country who may never see a skyscraper or step foot in a shopping mall, but what makes their experience any more authentic than those living in Shanghai or Beijing? Is it the extreme poverty that those communities experience? Surely, that cannot be the case when 25 percent of households in Shanghai still do not have indoor plumbing. I'm going to let that sink in for a moment. In 2013, there are over 5 million people living in this modern city who still use chamber pots at night.


Saying Shanghai is not real China is like saying New York City isn't really America. No, there aren't cows and white picket fences on every corner, but any New Yorker will be quick to tell you that they are just as American as someone from rural Oklahoma. It's just a different type of lifestyle, a different type of China which I am experiencing. But I promise, it is just as authentic an experience.



  1. This is exactly the point I was trying to make when Emily Ford wrote her god-awful "Going Local" article back in January. Great write-up.

    1. Thanks for the link, I hadn't read the before. Poverty certainly has nothing to do with authenticity.

  2. Love this post Kristin! I think you describe it perfectly. Hope you don't mind if I share your link?


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