Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tea (of unknown type)

A colleague gave me a package of tea, which was given to him by someone from mainland China.  The package was big and nice-looking.  However, try as I did, I could not figure out what type of tea it was.  It was not marked on the outside of the package, not on the inside, not on the two smaller boxes that actually hold the tea, ...  

When I actually brewed the tea, I found that the tea leaves were misshapen, broken, had holes in them, and some were even burnt.  Even after drinking the tea, I still could not tell what kind of tea it was. 

It is symptomatic of many things from China.  It looks good on the outside, but the inside is of poor quality.  It is true of the high speed trains that crash because of the problems with the signal systems.  It is true of many hotels that are poorly maintained.  It is true of many schools that were built at great cost but poorly used. 

I remember distinctly one high school in Hubei that we worked at a number of times.  It looked elegant from the outside.  The grounds were paved with smooth stones that looked like marble.  The walls of the buildings were covered with ivy.  It had the looks of an elite school.  Some of the classrooms, however, were flooded with water draining from the air-conditioners.  The computers were covered with dust, and looked like they were never used.  There was a showroom with many scientific specimens which was locked up all the time.  The worse, as is common in many places in China, were the filthy toilets, that we dared to use only for emergencies.  We had to hold up our breaths and tried not to look.  It was especially hard on the girls.  

In Chinese, we say 金玉其外,敗絮其中.  With money, it is relatively easy to modernize the hardware: the buildings, the trains, the machines, and the clothes.   But it is much harder to modernize the software: the people, the culture, the behaviour, and the mind.  Indeed, it is very true that the revolution has not yet succeeded - 革命尚未成功,同志仍需努力.


KYLE said...

Hah, you're right.the Wenzhou railway accident and the Shanghai subway collision are the best examples!!!

StephenC said...

Yeah. We don't like to hear such news. But it is perhaps inevitable, given the situation in China today.

YTSL said...

I think many of us wish China could be great but think that whoever believes it actually already/currently is so is greatly deluded.

The question these days is: do they want to learn or do they just want to pretend they already know? Sadly, it often seems to be the case that they would rather cover up flaws than actually go about solving problems and remedying wrongs.

StephenC said...

The ruling class in China admit that there are still problems - mainly of the economical kind. They certainly would not want to admit that they have much to learn in terms of openness, integrity, democracy, and respect for humanity.