Saturday June 2, 2012
After almost a week in China I have seen some incredible things and been able to put the growth of China in more real terms, which is what I expected. What I didn’t expect is to find that China cannot be used a blanket term to identify the country as a whole or its people. Dialects, culture and people can vary quite noticeable from one city, province or region to another. Our Asian experience began in Shanghai which is an international tourist city on the east coast of China and continued to Chongqing which is over a 1,000 miles inland. While Chongqing is a massive city that experiencing an incredible pace of development; it is much less a tourist destination and more of a Chinese city. You won’t find nearly the amount of people that speak English in Shanghai or anything else in English for that matter. The Sichuanese Mandarin that is spoken in Chongqing is so different from the Mandarin spoken in Shanghai that our trusted tour guide is only able to partially comprehend the language. Also, the pace seems to be a little more relaxed, uncongested and the people are friendlier. Regardless of these differences, Chongqing inhabitants consider themselves Chongqing people and Shanghai inhabitants will do the same as if they were separate countries within the same nation. These differences suggest that China be thought of as a continent rather than a country.
The hukou system, which is a household registration system, is central reason for this regional distinction. The freedom of movement that is enjoyed in the western world is not much more restricted in China. Under the hukou system a person is registered as residence of the city or region they are born in and any relocation to other areas is very difficult since only residences have access to certain necessities such as education and public assistance. When a specific region is designated as the center of your world and everything you experience is from the point of view of that region, I believe it is expected that deeply rooted regional distinctions will be made. The hukou system has been in existence for thousands of years and while it has undergone some reforms, the effects are already imbedded in Chinese culture. The question I have now is if it is possible to have a more united Chinese culture and people? Or will these regional identity distinctions, vast array of dialects, and cultural differences continue to fragment the Chinese landscape.Share post