Monday, March 21, 2005

Let's Pretend

What happens when enough people pretend to be something they are not? The question is not about pretending to be happy about seeing an ex-spouse, or pretending to be a supporter of the winning team. This is about pretending to be something you are not by living your life in every facet as if you are the thing you are not. That takes dedication, hard work and attention to detail. If three characteristics give a pretty good definition of Chinese society, dedication, hard work and attention to detail are on top of the list. As to the enough people part, the Chinese have that covered as well.

In order to address the population problem in Shanghai (current population about 20 million), the government has decided to build a series of ‘new towns’ in the surrounding countryside. These are not going to be ramshackle collections of tin shacks. Nor are they going to be sterile high rise boxes or even reproductions of Ming Dynasty palaces furnished with vases from Marks & Spencer or J C Penney. These new towns are going to be exact copies of countries. It has to be admitted that Chairman Mao’s successors think big.

For starters there’s Thames Town. An empty spot of land 25 miles from Shanghai will be turned into an English village. With about a half million residents the village part might be stretching it a bit; but the imported post boxes, old BT red phone booths and the local pub will help. The timbered cottages and Victorian homes lining the cobbled streets will add to the feel of the place. The full size copy of the castle and garden maze and the cathedral are also nice touches. Just down the road is the village of Pujiang. No longer a dreary Chinese hamlet, Pujiang is destined to be Italy, complete with canals and a pizza joint. It is not clear if it will be renamed Pugeoli but the planned 100,000 residents will undoubtedly enjoy the Cinzano on the piazza and pinching the girls’ bottoms. The town of Anting is also in for a treat. The BMW plant is a good clue to its future: Little Bavaria. Undoubtedly the Shinzou kids will get lederhosen and the Sunday dinner of rice wine and duck feet will be replaced by pilsner and sauerbraten. There are also plans to create copies of Spain (restaurants open at 10pm on Weekdays, 11pm on weekends) and Canada (curling could become the new obsession).

The idea to have the people of China pretend that they are not Chinese has major implications for world peace. No longer will Americans cry ‘why can’t they be more like us?’ No longer will Europeans fear ‘foreign imports’. If there is one sure way to live more comfortably with 1 billion Chinese, it’s to have them be Brits, Germans and Italians. Of course the Chinese might find this all to be a bit worrying. When the pub closes in Thames Town and 300,000 pissed ‘Brits’ hit the streets it won’t be pretty. The local constabulary will have to learn how to say ‘all right you lot, it’s down to the nick’. When Pujiang Atletico plays the Anting Bayern Wanderers, it’s likely that tempers will flare on and off the football pitch. Pretty soon the ‘Spaniards’ will start fighting over whether to speak Castilian or Catalan and the ‘Canadians’ will develop an inferiority complex.

The Chinese government is clearly missing a trick here. In attempting to build more housing while maintaining a rigid control of society, they should build an exact copy of Shanghai. But they already have one of those.


Blogger Abby Taylor said...

Thank goodness the obesity rates will finally even up.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Africanuck said...

I'll bet the waiting list for living in the exact replica of Amsterdam is really really long.

11:22 AM  

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