Final thoughts on Asia

When I first went to Europe, I was a junior in college.  I had never traveled outside the United States before then.  It was a life-changing experience.  The world in Europe felt foreign.  They lived life differently, they spoke a different language, they ate different foods and they seemed so much more sophisticated.  35 years later, Europe feels like an extended cousin as our cultures have collided and English is spoken almost everywhere.

This summer we spent most of June in Europe, and we both came home feeling like Europe was holding onto a past life and was having trouble moving forward.  We felt troubled by the vibe on the streets.

After just spending the last three weeks in Asia, it feels extremely different.  I am really glad we saw Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam at the same time as even though they are separate countries, they are all connected and China looms over all 3.  History has proven that the US should have got behind Ho Chi Minh, who really just wanted to make Vietnam a better place for his countrymen and we read that situation wrong.  So Minh went to Russia where he found a different way to empower his people, through Communism.  Communism still rules in all of Asia but instead of equality for all, there is Capitalism without votes.  Capitalism creates an economy which is why 1/3 of the wealthiest people in the world live in China.

30 years from now I hope that Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam will find a new generation of voices to change their Government and allow a voice for the people vs the quasi-dictators that rule today.  It appears that most people believe it will take that long because right now they are also just so happy to have peace and live their lives.  All three of these countries are freely connected to the Internet so the youth are quite aware of the rest of the world and that makes an impact.

Hong Kong is slowly becoming another Chinese city but it is not quite there yet.  Shanghai, on the other hand, is booming.  The streets are packed, there is a lot of wealth, there are plenty of jobs, there is art, there is food, there is old, there is new, there is tourism, there is fashion, there is wine, there is everything….and the reality is they do not need us.  They are completely fine not using US companies such as Google and forcing their citizens to use Chinese products.  We felt the heavy hand ever so lightly.  Here culture and language are extremely different even more so than I felt in Europe 35 years ago.

We came home, landed at JFK, which feels old and in need of a serious face-lift and I can’t help but think at one point China will rule the world.  How they rule is yet to be shown but from the vast amount of people, their city planning, their efficient transportation and more, it will happen, the only question to be answered is when.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Yup, every time I land at JFK I feel the same.Just about the only city I travel to that there is no real workable public trans to the city.Even SF, with a bit of funk in getting to Bart has made this workable for the business traveler.

  2. Erin

    Very interesting.

  3. JLM

    .In much the same way that you describe the changes in Europe since your first visit, China will change. Communism is a dead theory of governance. Socialism is just as dead. They are barely on life support. They are unable to win the arguments in the public square when ideas are hung out in the light of day.The China that exists thirty-five years hence will be nothing like the one that exists today. In much the same manner in which capitalism (a form of economics, not governance) is slowly eating its way into China, democratic principles will begin to dilute the pure evil of communism and the power of the dying power elite.China was a capitalist country long before it became a communist country. One day, it will cast off its oppressive shackles and revert to its historic past. Even in Cuba, there is a residual core of capitalistic and democratic zeal within the bosom of the people.Cuba will become part of the US (figuratively) as soon as the Castro family’s fingers are pried from the controls. It was once upon a time. Venezuela will fail ingloriously and become the poster child for failed socialism.The struggle for world dominance will be our top 5% v the world’s top 5%. It will be a battle of ideas and no communist country will ever espouse an idea which trumps freedom.As long as government believes it draws its power from a communist party affiliation (the undiluted message from the recent communist party congress in China) and not the consent of the governed, it will not create converts.China is communist not because it is a rational, superior methodology of attainment of the dreams of its people, but because it has tanks. The government continues to be only the weight of tanks in Tiananmen Square, nothing more.With all the problems the word has — and there are a ton of them — there is no idealogy which can compete with freedom or encouraging the attainment of personal self-fulfillment.Good will drive out evil, though evil will inflict a lot of pain on the way out.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  4. Jeremy Robinson

    Thank you for this summary, Joanne. Very interesting to see the world this way. I do think that the current isolationist, anti-immigration sentiment in this country is a mere blip in the overall march of history. The differences in culture, particularly in Asian culture are differences we can all learn from. I intuitively feels integrating these differences and innovations in our Western world will end up re-invigorating the US. Ironically. I also pray that both Communism and our own home-grown brand of right-wing nativism pass away soon.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I agree with you as we are obviously both optimistic that this time in our history is just a blip to get us to a better place

  5. Julie Lerner

    Can you expand further on this quote from your post: “This summer we spent most of June in Europe, and we both came home feeling like Europe was holding onto a past life and was having trouble moving forward. We felt troubled by the vibe on the streets.” After spending a lot of time with language and then business school in Bordeaux, I decided to rent a flat in Paris for July. Had been to Paris, but hadn’t spent much time there. Really just kind of hung out. I walk/ran every inch of the city. And, had a lot of fantastic meals (thank you for the restaurant recommendations). Yes, everyone spoke English and it was so crowded, but I still loved it.

    1. Gotham Gal

      It was our time in Italy and then Berlin. The merging (basically) of Europe has changed where the youth are going. They are moving towards the few tech hubs and leaving the rest of the European cities in the dust. Good news is countries are changing such as Italy just passed a law hoping to build new tech industries. We felt as the areas where we wandered off the beaten path where tourists do not go in Italy was depressing.