by Larry Moneta, November 9, 2012
It’s just after 5 am on Saturday and I’m looking forward to our full day ahead at Shanghai University. I’ll be the opening speaker on a panel of American educators speaking to our China Bridge delegation and about 30 Chinese university administrators. My topic will be “Preparing students for the global economy”. I have so many examples from Duke and hope my remarks will help stimulate a lively discussion. We have several other topics on the agenda and will be touring the campus and meeting students as well. More on this tomorrow.
Yesterday was a rainy though warm day (60′s f). We toured Shanghai and spent a couple of hours at the Yu Gardens, among the last remnants of old Shangai architecture…now a shopping district, of course. We had dinner at the one restaurant Judy and I ate at in 2000. Its easy to remember because of the Bill and Hillary Clinton photo in the lobby. And yes…they had vegan options for me.
After dinner we took a 30 minute boat ride on the Huangpu River which offered great views of the Shanghai downtown (lots of colored lights everywhere) albeit in the rain.
A couple of general observations:
1. Traffic! O.M.G. It took forever to get from the airport to the hotel (basic Holiday Inn)…forever to get from the hotel to Yu Gardens and nearly forever to get back to the hotel even after 9 pm. There way more cars than I recall from 2000, way fewer bikes and scooters (though plenty) and insane drivers barely following rules of the road (or following local, unwritten rules). We’ve already seen one bad truck accident and I fear more to come.
2. Construction cranes still abound. Perhaps not as many as I seem to remember from 2000, but the city sprawls with more than 22 million people and apartment towers can be seen for miles and miles with more under construction.
3. The young people, all college students, with whom we’ve met are very informed about global matters. When we were here during the presidential elections in 2000, we could hardly find news about it. Now, the Obama victory and the campaign intensity are well known and most seemed pleased with the outcome.
4. National pride for China’s economic growth is evident. The students were excited about having the second largest economy and clear that they intended to pass the US and be number one. We’ve only met a few students so far (and obviously hand picked ones by the local hosts), so I’ll be interested to hear if more express similar competitive and entrepreneurial sentiments.