My recent trip to China brought home two views of China: The progress it has made, and how little things have changed.
China’s progress in providing electricity to its citizens is remarkable. Advances in technology have also been remarkable: Bullet trains and their first woman astronaut as examples.
Yet, in many respects, activities are still fairly primitive.
These pictures, showing the loading of coal onto a barge during my trip, shows there is still a lack of appreciation for health, safety and the environment.
This reminded me of my first visit to Taiwan, when, as a midshipman on board a freighter, the Reuben Tipton, a large quantity of phosphates was delivered to Keelung, Taiwan. The Peoples Republic of China considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces.
The forward holds were full of granular phosphate; loose, and not bagged.
Chinese workmen, with yokes across their shoulders and buckets hanging from each end of the yoke, walked down ramps to the phosphate in the ship’s hold, where the buckets were filled by other workers standing on the phosphate, using shovels and hands. The workmen would then carry their loads up wooden ramps to the ship’s deck, then down other ramps to the dock. The entire load of phosphates was removed in this manner … without cranes, or mechanical assistance of any kind. The dust was ingested by all the workers.
It took a week, actually Christmas week, to fully unload the phosphate.
While not completely unrelated to China, this picture, taken on the same voyage, but on Mindanao, the Philippines, shows me riding a more primitive form of energy used in farming and transportation.
China remains a study in contrasts.
While 400 million Chinese have clearly benefited from the progress that has been made over the past twenty years, with many young professionals working in science, business, banking and other modern occupations, there are still those living on farms and in rural areas where conditions remain very similar to what existed sixty years ago.
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