Since I am an irregular visitor to China, I readied myself for an expected culture shock before landing in Peking. Maybe it is really a political-economic shock; from the bright lights and vibrant environment I am accustomed to, to the dimmer, uniformed, disciplined, and slower pace of China. My last visit five years ago was well before the fall of the “Gang of Four.” Crossing into China at that time was accompanied by an indefinable sense of adventure, of penetrating what was then still largely a hostile, unknown, and unknowable continent.
This journey was no different, The shock was duly felt, but very differently than before. Of course I had read all about the changes after the “Gang” disappeared. Still something felt different. I felt I was in a new atmosphere, perhaps a new China. In Peking as well as the other cities I visited Western movies were being shown. Sure they are taking it easy, Charlie Chaplin for openers, billboards, advertising, even some colorful lights replacing slogans of Chairman Mao. Lipstick, hairdos, and colorful dresses in Shanghai; this could not be China. Coca-Cola at the hotels, U, S. dollars only please, one buck for a small bottle but it is there! On the train one is greeted with the “Sound of Music” instead of the sound of politics. All of this and more added to my new sense of surprise.