Shanghai’s Pudong airport is a triumph – at least at a cursory glance – when compared to everything else in my life bearing those infamous words: ‘made in China.’
Pudong boasts front door parking, American style, except for 747s and lots of them.
In fact, looking left or right through the haze of smog I am so unaccustomed to in beautiful Tokyo, the terminal building appears endless – like a second great wall – ironically this one meant to let foreigners in.
Everything looks new and clean, as though this airport was built very recently, and indeed it was. China, so it seems, has a flair for the dramatic; a hint of megalomania evident in all it builds. I know better even as a first-time visitor.
China is large in a ways that are difficult to imagine. It’s vast landmass stretches so far West from Shanghai’s Eastern coast that were you to travel the distance you would cross more undrawn ethnic borders than most countries boast varieties. You would scale vast mountain ranges, cross endless deserts, and be confronted with sights as different as night and day, and than others besides. You would do all this meanwhile in the company of the Chinese themselves – some 1.5 billion strong. China, in a word, is endless.
I am not sure if it is a cultural idiosyncracy, or if it is simply lack of respect for rules, but wherever I look the Chinese are breaking them. From minor things such as speaking right beneath the sign that says “quiet,” to driving 120 where the signs say 80, the Chinese seem utterly apathetic to the rules. Perhaps it is normal, but again I must draw a paralel (or rather lack thereof) to my beautiful Japan wherr even jay walking is quietely frowned upon. The rather overburdening FAA would have had a field day on my flight over nit-picking the scores of actively disobedient Chinese using cell phones, laptops, and other black-listed devices.
Yet this wanton disobrdience strikes me not as similar behavior in the West – our pettiness embodied by rebellion against conformity – breaking the rules because we have something to prove if only to ourselves. Rather the Chinese demeanor speaks of apathy both of the rules and the breaking of them. I find it highly annoying but psychoanalytically fascinating; what better to stimulate the mind than the common notions of a billion people.
I had until today never been to China before. Although its long, rich history has intruiged me for years and its divetsity of landscape, through photographs and film, has beckoned me longer still, it simply never happened. Now that I am finally arrived I feel immediately at ease, not because I am simply on a brief visit in all the luxury of Shanghai tourism, but because I feel I have been heading here far longer than the three hours it took. A jet plane delivered me into a dream-come-reality, and now I have well and truly arived. From Shanghai I bid you good night.