Bruno Cooke

The importance of being sincere

Reflections on modern China, by a short term resident

Pretty hip youngsters parade in garish patterns and wear expensive jackets with lurid docketing (like Superdry for the Chinese — examples include MY EX DIED and DON’T WORRY, WE ALL DIE ALONE), there are old, haggard street-people hocking loogies onto the pavement; there are juniors gobbing incongruously between glances at their phones. Phones are everything. They watch you just as they listen to each other. Kids lollop about, glued to luminescence, parents trailing them along by a thumb.

People are active. They are also everywhere. Street food vendors line narrow roads and churn out all hustle and bustle. Everyone is different — noisy, quiet, boisterous, timid, grotesque, refined — all nestled among architectural & societal & cultural contradictions. The city is oxymoronic.

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Old China vs New China

One student of mine said her boyfriend was ugly because he was too dark. They used to call him Blackie. How does one approach that?

Old China is transient and permanent and clung to and revered. Temples, water, work, rice, sagging, beautiful, real — radiant, sad. It underpins the New like a giant slab of concrete, impermeable to change and being blinkered out, stifled by the monster redevelopment project of New China, by social upheaval and hyper-modernity and WeChat. Its song is mellifluous but its fingernails are breaking and its scratches are no longer indelible on the minds of the young — who flaunt the badges of New China like gold stars.

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