Had a final dinner at familiar and cozy Sekura’s Cafe in Old Town Lijiang…splurging on Western food…sharing our beer with Roland, a 30 year old economics teacher in a university in Singapore. (Surprisingly and to his delight Jana guessed his age…so many young Asians look much younger than they are.) Roland had attended the University at Flagstaff Arizona and a small business college in Whitewater Wisconsin.
We immediately fell into a discussion about the likely future of China…the cities will eventually be fine but what will give the Central Government trouble, everyone agrees, will be rural China. There is great unequal distribution of wealth…but as Jana says…where isn’t there? Roland said that conservedly 95% of all food, whether horticultural or animal, are genetically altered and we agreed that China will never export food to the United States because of it. A chicken develops from embryo to full grown fryer in six months, he says. Safe ecological methods, it seems, is a luxury of rich nations. Roland has done some consulting for various environmental groups and says that the Philippines has done the most of any Asian country in terms of using ecological methods like crop rotation etc. instead of the overuse of fertilizers. But the bigger problem, Roland says, is that more efficient methods of agriculture do not rise to the surface because of individual initiative as in the United States. China, because of it’s centralized government imposes one unified model, regardless of local needs and conditions, that is communicated to all the villages via satellite TV.
I mentioned the book I had been reading, “The Coming Collapse of China,” and Roland laughed…saying yes, for every opinion you will find economists agreeing or disagreeing largely because of the lack of reliable statistics. China’s problems, the book says, could be solved with political reform but the Communist Party will never let that happen. China insists it’s GNP is growing at 8% but many believe the figures are cooked in order to get that rate, Roland agreed. Yes, the GNP is growing now, but my book says the banks are going broke because the central government is spending at breakneck speed to bring China into the 20th Century world market…last year it joined the World Trade Association. Can that kind of growth be sustained at the same time that the unemployed workers in rural China, who are already demonstrating on a regular basis, cause bigger trouble for the country? And are China’s reserves really as big as they say they are?
Than we lapsed into more esoteric subjects like evolutionary biology and creationism which requires faith…and the personhood of the chimpanzee…which was the subject of Jana’s son Jordan’s Master’s thesis…a huge leap which, Roland thought, also required faith. We ended with a discussion of the probable end of the species…at the very least a stimulating end to the evening.
When we returned to Mr. Yang’s Inn at 11pm Mr. Yang, who has taken very good care of us for almost two weeks, was waiting up for us so he could close the gates…Welcome Home… he said with a smile.
The next morning as we were leaving for the bus station, Mr. Yang told us in his limited English “to take care.” We will miss this gentle man who brought Jana two eggs instead of one to eat when she was sick.
And we will miss Fifi the Lijiang dog and Debu the Beijing puppy who loved us enthusiastically and unconditionally.