The Asian culture is one in which I have never felt a particular affinity, thus I never felt a driving need to visit China, however, I am very glad that I did. Here in the United States it is easy to complain about "everything" being made in China and acknowledge how difficult to it is to accept our loss of manufacturing dominance and self reliance. Travel to China helps to develop the sense of a world economy and to realize that most of the Chinese are doing what we are, trying to make a living in a changing world and culture. The people were friendly, helpful and just trying to live their lives as best they knew how.
There were some surprises for me and the lack of government or state presence was one of them. I was expecting more police visibility and more show of state power and force and that really was not the case. It is a communist country and the power of the government is real, however in ways much more subtle and less intimidating than I expected.
One of the things that struck me was the joy the people seemed to take in their children. Looking back at a history of not valuing females (or more specifically, girl children) I was heartened to see that most of the children I saw, boys or girls, appeared to be happy and well loved. I, too, disagree with mandated family size but the Chinese seemed to enjoy what they have and to take great pleasure in their children, something that made my heart happy.
The traffic in China is something that will live in my mind forever. It took me three days in China to come up with an analogy for traffic patterns and it is this: dumping a huge bag of marbles of ALL sizes on a floor, then watching them scatter. For every car, truck or bus there are roughly 15 "something else's" and I truly mean something else's. There were silver metal somethings that looked like phone booths on wheels, mini mini-vans, miniature flat-bed trucks, bicycle contraptions, scooter contraptions and many other "modes of transportation" unlike anything seen in the US. The entire time I was in China I saw three helmets; I know because I counted in total fascination. Two people on a motorcycle and one on a scooter. I thought our bus driver should have been making a million dollars a day because that is roughly what it would take to prompt me to drive in Beijing. Observing the bicycles challenging the tour buses is something that will forever be imprinted in my "Believe it or Not" memory file.