Posts Tagged ‘Cars in China’
Before I begin this brief review of November’s news, or a few pieces of it that I have found of interest, I must just note that it took me 50 minutes in a taxi yesterday to do a journey that only takes 20 minutes on my bike. Although, I promise that after this brief aside I will avoid the issue of traffic for a few weeks, as it has become a too oft-repeated theme here and I am actually beginning to depress myself, let alone anyone else. But for now, back to yesterday, there didn’t seem to be any extra special road problem, it was just the sheer weight of traffic that was holding us up so long.
So, it was with a deep sigh that I concluded my re-reading of this extract from Karl Gerth’s book As China Goes So Goes The World, a poignant title if ever there was one, and one that China Beat picked up on this month. I had only just finished chatting with a friend of mine about the exceptional growth in private car ownership here in Xi’an, particularly over the last year, when I began reading it.
The article in no way contradicted our discussion or in any way led me to any brighter conclusions than the ones we had just dwelt upon. One of which was the almost inevitable sealing of Xi’an’s roads at some point in the near future, particularly in areas outside of the newly built zones in the west and far south, which do at least have somewhat wider boulevards and road junctions.
We seemed to both be acknowledging that the subway system, at least in the short term, is just not going to hit the spot in terms of a practicable alternative for the vast majority of car users out there. And with the increase in car ownership not doing anything like stabilizing, let alone decreasing, it really doesn’t bode well.
Gerth’s book managed to put this situation in a much graver light, by giving it some historical context and a consequential sense of the inevitability and run away, now out of control, nature of it all. To think an alternative, a non-private car based society and economy was actually being considered, or even expected, up until relatively recently. China really could have given its growth and increased global power some fluttering flags of moral leadership, if that is what it or we really wanted, but it didn’t.
This is just a Note that has been brewing for a while.
*Cháng’ān Lù 长安路
We have grown up together side-by-side but now your behaviour has gotten to a point that I cannot abide, nor simply hide or ignore that which crosses my mind. But, first I gotta ask: “Sweet Cháng’ān Lù: Is it really you?”
I am sure, back then, it wasn’t just me who revelled in the criss-crossing mass of humanity, which descended on the Junction of Shi Da Lu; like some joyous, incongruous stew. No matter spluttering car or steaming truck, we strode out with a little good luck and little regard knowing, in fact, it was we who would pass.
Halting the traffic in our wake we grasped our long fought for humanitarian stake. But, make no mistake Chang’An Lu, you must take responsibility for the lack of humanity that now resides at your gate, you leaving us simply to wait and to wait. But, I ask… for what?
Back then buses would halt as an aged old lady would take to the street, simply sweeping a broom made from plastic bagged sheets, while motorcycles still weaved between pockets and sleeves. But, the time most enjoyed was when we all at once directed and objected from the centre of stage, before being forced to turn the page: losing that urgent, organic, glistening spell which storybooks will never be able to retell. We all halted, we all moved, the life was all there at that crossroads at Shi Da Lu.
A tear now crosses my eye for the deep sadness of goodbye and a progress more reminiscent of a creational mess than a strategic game of post-war chess. The shiny black wasteland that one-day you will be now carries eight high-speed lanes of immovability, directly dissecting our community.
Oh Chang’An Lu, I stood there at your side as the last roll of new tar was itself applied, giving your potholed visage a life a new. That night we watched as an aged old man not far from his grave, contributed his last efforts for you to be paved. So hot, it was steaming in the dark of the night, but we, a few, gathered in the future knew, one life had passed and another… who knew?
You changed then Cháng’ān Lù, you were never the same once this glistening black coat was tied at your neck. I wanted to believe it could be as before but now the reality has sunk in, there is no drop of that past left for us to draw. Today, we are no longer allowed even to gather at your side. “Take a chance” I hear you say, but sweet Cháng’ān Lù that’s a thing of the past, it just wasn’t able to last. A fact we cannot hide, if only you knew, no chance now, unless of course we are ourselves taken for a ride.
Don’t look back I hear wise words say but it was actually you who taught us that way, back in the day: “Don’t look back, stride out, you are Kings on my road”, you would say, and we believed you. Because be sure back then, as those who travelled with us knew, looking back was not something we knew how to do. We strode with criss-crossing glee, oh yeah, really quite free. May be some say it is not the case to be true, but today is a place less free: to be true, to be true. Oh Cháng’ān Lù what has happened to you?
Just a day or so ago, I was thinking of you as I held up a bus, of course, not wishing a fuss, but when I looked out from the North to the South do you know what I could not see Cháng’ān Lù? It was you. I could not see you, for a continuous, sickening metallic hue, which had morphed into one almighty incomprehensible queue: that quite simply had obliterated you.
But now, at the dawn of a new modern era, it does in turn dawn upon me what I probably always could see. You have gone Cháng’ān Lù. It is no longer you. I talk to myself now it does seem but if that is all I have left then what I wish say I wish to be clear, to be fresh, to be seen.
Oh consume, Oh swoon, Oh legitimate heir, Oh the reason so fair, Oh fair: the fair of fair rides, fair maidens and fair despair. Oh pollution, Oh evolution, Oh ignominious death, Oh development, Oh wither, Oh sickened river, Oh imbedded, hot headed, earnestnessness. Sweet love, sweet freedom and sweet redress.
Oh Sweet Cháng’ān Lù, I really miss you.