China as a Modern Nation

My September 1992 visit to Vietnam was the most recent East Asian travel prior to my March 1998 trip to China. In that two week visit I entered the country at Shanghai. My next stay was in Hangzhou. Then I left from Beijing after five days there.

Prior travel in East Asia going back to a 1970 visit to Japan did not prepare me for the vast change and substantial accomplishment I saw in China.

The research and achievements I learned about during this 1998 visit places China in the first ranks of achievement in computers and mathematics. In contrast to my travel to Vietnam, I met many individuals trained in the U.S.A., U.K., and Western Europe. Many hold the Ph.D. degree, often after extensive experience on the faculty of major U.S. universities.

Almost everywhere I met students at all levels of college who were accomplished in spoken English, and were strongly interested in working or studying in the U.S.

Although the bicycle is still heavily used for transportation in the largest two cities, Beijing and Shanghai, the rate of 1) adoption of technology; and, 2) the creation of a contemporary infrastructure is astounding. The rapidity in each instance is amazing. However, that is exceeded by the scale. Any visitor observes the movement forward of one quarter of humanity. This happening is roughly akin to a change in one generation that is something like what happened in Western Asia, Europe and the Americas in two millenia. China is becoming a highly modern nation, led by these two places, one described as the "head of the dragon" - Shanghai, the other the nation's official capitol, Beijing.

The West was first with buildings that symbolized the city, the "skyscraper." Constructing massive buildings (see image) in Shanghai's Pudong district is an element of the modernization movement. Beijing has many, and districts where they were built years ago. As in New York, the presence of huge public spaces has a channeling effect on people. But so do shopping malls and popular art (novels, music, television) [1].

China is in the midst of an era of incredible achievement.


Zha, Jianying, China Pop - How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture, NY: The New Press, 1995, ISBN 1-56584-249-9.

Klinger, Allen Comments on Chinese Culture.