The New China
I came to China in 1990 having very little prior knowledge of I might find. There were no travel books and the internet was but a future dream. I found myself in the capital city of the Province. a scruffy, dirty disorganized place. Rubbish lay everywhere. There were five tall buildings in town, two them were pagodas of great age.
We were deposited in a brand new hotel where I had to live for a year and a half. Foreigners were not allowed to rent apartments' there were none available.. The hotel had 28 floors and all modern conveniences including air conditioning. It was the first representative of the city's building frenzy that would in 30 years result in a modern efficient metropolis equal to any in the world. The pagoda on the right is new.
Fuzhou No 1 Bridge - Bridge of 1,000 years. Built 800 years ago. I crossed it when I arrived in the Government Volga.
Traffic was light and we crossed easily. No private cars then. Few trucks. Road very narrow, two lanes. Goods arrived by rail and sea.
Now is only one of seven bridges. Six lanes plus footpaths and bike lanes on both sides. Very busy. Ships pass through middle arch.
Fuzhou City, population about 2.5 million, 2021. Overlooking Westlake Park. Now millions of trees, mainly Banyan fill the park and line the streets. The new subway has reduced traffic congestion by the main means of transport in the city are electric bikes.
In 1990, the view to the mountains from my hotel room window was clear. No tall buildings. The residential building for many of the citizens were the traditional extended family houses, two stories high surrounding a courtyard with a well. Power and gas connections were unregulated and fires were frequent. Water was supplied for domestic use by a stand pipe in a narrow alley which supplied a number of houses. there was no indoor plumbing. Human waste was collect early in the morning and sold to farmers nearby. Cooking was done over an open coal fire and the air in the morning and evening was worse than can be
imagined. In the 1990s these houses were demolished, the land sold to developers who built high rise residential buildings . there were protests outside Government building but no riots. The protests soon stopped when those displaced found themselves compensated with a modern two of three bedroom apartment.
I know this is a true story. I bought my apartment (view from the balcony above) in 1999. There are 600 apartments in the block bordering on a one acre garden. Some of my neighbors received their current apartments in compensation for the demolition of their houses stood were on the land the land that the block now occupies.
So, in the end, who pays for the apartments the dispossessed now own and occupy. I paid in part along with the other 580 people who bought property in the block. This, I guess amounted to a few percent of the cost of my apartment.
Who lost on the deal? No one lost. This has happened in most of the Eastern richer cities and has happened in the poorer cities towns and villages too. I am guessing that in the more remote villages where people have been rehoused, the richer Provinces contributed to the compensatory houses.
This was the main street market in the part of Fuzhou where I lived in 1994. there were many in town. People bought their clothing shoes. spices and all manner of dry goods there. The wet markets supplied meat, eggs and vegetables and they appeared on the side streets at daybreak, only to disappear by eight AM. ,Other necessities like tea, sugar, salt, rice flour, liquor, beer sometimes and cigarettes (smoking in government offices was almost obligatory), were sold at small convenience stores. There was a Government owned supermarket but it held nothing an no one went there. At the Friendship Stores, you could buy Nescafe if you had foreign Exchange Certificates. Dairy products could only be obtained if you had friends in one of the two hotels.