I have been to so many countries in the last decade that my carbon footprint is Yeti-size. But one country I haven’t been to for 32 years is the one I’m in now: China.
What a difference three decades makes: my visit in 1981–82 coincided with the trial of the Gang of Four; now many sub-25 Chinese think that must be the name of a new boy band they yet haven’t heard of.
My last visit was to run a seminar between Australian and Chinese journalists on behalf of the Australia-China Council, after which we did a tour that focused on the nascent attempts to transform the socialist and agrarian commune-oriented China of Mao’s day into a modern industrial country. Just before we left Australia, China released economic statistics that had everyone on the Australian side scratching their heads: it reported a 17 per cent increase in “light industry” output and an 8 per cent fall in “heavy industry”.