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June 11, 2011 / annakpf11

South China

A ferryboat plies the channel between Taiwan and Guanzhou. We are on board, about to arrive on the mainland of China.

We disembark into an airless customs shed and take our places at the end of a long line. A stern official hands us a Health and Quarantine Declaration Form asking whether we’ve had close contact with “poultry or bird in the past 7 days,” or had symptoms of “snivel” or “psychosis.” No, we report. We are neither flu-ridden nor psychotic, merely hot, tired and thirsty. Under the humorless gaze of armed military personnel, we grip our passports, sweat, and wait.

A minivan shuttles us to our hotel through streets congested with cars, buses, bicycles and scooters piled high with people, produce and all manner of goods.

Everything seems under construction, half-finished buildings sheathed in rickety bamboo scaffolding and piles of masonry on the sidewalks.

Armed military police are everywhere.

Checking into our hotel requires many smiling assistants and several cups of tea.

Funded by the Chinese government in order to woo foreign business investors, our hotel room is luxurious and squeaky clean. The view from our window looks out to an anomalous mix of dingy apartments and new high-rise condos.

Industry and housing in South China grow in tandem at an exponential rate.

We visit a range of manufacturers, from small assembly plants to high-tech factory/dormitory complexes with clean rooms, vast inventories, and housing for hundreds of employees recruited from the countryside to live and work on site.

The South China News headlines make for interesting reading (I did not make these up):

Woman With Big Appetite Goes to See Doctor

Man Talked out of Suicide by Helpful Granny

Gum Stuck in Buses Proves Tough to Clean

Dog Saves Owner, Dies Trying to Rescue Cat

We depart for Shanghai by plane from the Shenzen airport, a crowded, confusing and fascinating place where embarkation tax must be paid at a specific, difficult-to-locate desk, non-smoking and smoking areas are strictly enforced and the snack bar serves gorgeous asian pears.

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