An American in Chengdu

Tianfu Square | October 1, 2009

This afternoon I went to Tianfu Square, Chengdu’s answer to Tiannanmen, to see whether there was any public celebration here for China’s 60th. While there were plenty of people and a festive atmosphere, there wasn’t much in the way of organized entertainment, other than decorative jets of water on one side of the square. People took pictures of each other with the decorations, which included banners and many poinsettias.

I’ve been thinking since I got here about how young the Chinese state is (twice as old as me!), and how quickly the country has changed since its founding. I think that what’s at least as amazing as these changes, though, is the fact that they have occurred without coups or revolutions. I think that’s because the Communist Party is willing to learn from its mistakes, if not to admit them. Unfortunately the lessons the leaders draw from disasters aren’t always what Amnesty International members like myself would want, e.g., blocking blogging platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in the interest of repressing dissent. But they’re undeniably getting results.

It’s very strange to see a giant statue of Chairman Mao still saluting a square whose periphery now boasts a Cartier store, a McDonalds, and a Starbucks. I wonder how many decades he has left.

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    About me

    I've come to Sichuan in search of adventure, fluency in Chinese, and awesome vegetarian food. I have to concede that the baby pandas are very cute.
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