Across Continents

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Silk Road reflections

"The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned" – Antonio Gramsci, Italian politician (deceased)

Ordinarily I’d wait until I’d traversed an entire country before reflecting on what I’ve experienced. But China’s a bit different. It’s not just big. It’s also a very diverse nation. So, a few thoughts, observations, along the way seems reasonable.

There’s the relative modernity of the towns and cities. The consumer society. For quite a few a standard of living broadly comparable with that of Western Europe. That’s not to say there aren’t people forced to scrape by, struggling to make ends meet. But that’s often the case, in even the most developed of nations.

I was curious as to just how many people existed on, or below, the poverty line. But, subjective as this measure invariably is, comparisons are fraught with difficulty. Not least because I’m a little sceptical as to the veracity of some of the figures. Does the UK really have four times as many people living in poverty than China? I seriously doubt it.

What is irrefutable is stark contrast between the relatively sophisticated urban environment and the smaller settlements, the villages and homesteads. Abject poverty? A more simple existence, devoid of modern material possessions, need not be. Just ask the Amish. Rather, it is the economic disparity between the two, a gap I sense is widening, especially for those at either ends of the scale. But nothing unique about China in that respect.

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