Man vs. Land—geo-cultural differences between China and Europe

The terrain of China is constantly being redesigned, reshaped, remoulded, in a bizarre and at times saddening demonstration of power of machine over nature.

—Chengdu, sichuan province, china, 2017

How many people are there in China? There are lots of people in China.

As there are 1.3(86) billion people here, pragmatism and utility are first priorities in a lot of processes. Canteens are enormous and churn out vast quantities of food, very cheap, for hoards of hungry hippos. Wastage is wastage, but the children are fed. Everything is made in order to accommodate hundreds or thousands or millions of people. The subway carriages are bigger than London’s; the roads are wider, have more lanes; local small-time bakeries are constantly constantly constantly producing loaves, and constantly constantly constantly have queues; towerblocks are in perpetual construction, popping up like Lego tenements; in the outskirts of the city, gigantic roads are mid-way through being built, and jut out at the sky 15 floors up in order to one day ferry people upon people upon people to the corners, near and far, of China.

And of the land

And the land: if it can be changed to better suit its purpose, it is. Whereas in England or France or for that matter most of Europe, you’ll nip around and see mostly large flat or hillside fields either growing maize or sunflowers or hemp or lying fallow or being pastoral with grazing animals etc etc., the actual lay of the land existing in its own way, in Sichuan much of the land is shaped and sculpted in order to suit the needs of the country, the people of the country. The terrain is constantly being redesigned, reshaped, remoulded, in a bizarre and at times saddening demonstration of power of machine over nature. Seeing this process mid-way is the most strange: the land sits bare like a big brown pudding being carved up. Gradient is no good, so hills become steps, and vehicles need access, so mudded highways are scraped into the soil, laid over so that the system is practicable.

I don’t know. I guess it’s completely normal. And it fits with the unabashed nature of social interactions – there are no political or societal reservations (as a whole, anyway) about redesigning the land they inhabit, if it thereby becomes more effective, more productive, more utilisable. It is a triumph of change, progression or something other, in a country heavily preoccupied with its own ancient history. I find it interesting.

How did you find it?
With a map.

Coming for you
squeaky faced Every day
cut and paste Weighing up
less speed more haste London town
where I was graced.


This piece also appears on Medium, along with several others, covering China as well as other countries.

For more bits on China from this site, follow these links:
Old China vs. new China
The importance of being sincere


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