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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Guilin and Yangshuo: Day 8 (the end)

Our final morning in Yángshuò 阳朔 began with breakfast at Le Vôtre, the French restaurant sharing the same Ming-era residence as our lodgings, the Yangshuo C.Resort West Street Residence:

Interior decorations ranged from Buddhist and Christian statuary to posters of Chinese Communist political idols:

With only a limited amount of time to spend in Yangshuo before our hired car drove us to the airport, we ventured down to the river for one last look at the karst topography:

Back on Xījiē 西街, and some politically incorrect shop signage:

Probably politically correct by Chinese standards: this patriotic stall operator strikes a blow for national pride through the means of blatant, blanket discrimination. Trying to tell her that Máo Zédōng 毛泽东 and the Chinese Communist Party were responsible for the deaths of more Chinese citizens than the Japanese Imperial Army, or that more than 2/3 of the Japanese population today was born after the events of the Second World War, or that the Japanese government has expressed its regret or remorse at least 25 times (by one recent count) since Japan and China re-established diplomatic relations in 1972 will no doubt just elicit looks of incomprehension and be a complete waste of time. As long as the Chinese government faces pressure and calls for reform from disgruntled citizens, the atrocities committed by the Japanese military all those years ago will serve as a convenient pressure release valve, diverting dissatisfaction away from ruling elite and its bankrupt ideology, and back toward a people the Chinese have historically dismissed as "dwarves" (Japanese nationalists, of course, have done more than their fair share when it comes to stoking the fires of anger and resentment among the Chinese populace). People like our Yangshuo vendor are fed a nightly diet of ridiculous, historically-challenged TV dramas featuring evil Japanese invaders (sometimes led by sexy seductresses, and featuring soldiers who shoot with Star Wars stormtrooper-like accuracy) and valiant, almost superhero-like Chinese resistance fighters (like the female martial artist who single-handedly tore a Japanese soldier in half). It appeals to the lowest common denominator, but it works, as evidenced by our motherland-loving street vendor:

If you were to open a food stand, and being upset over what is happening to the Tibetans and Uighurs, decided to strike a blow for freedom by refusing to serve Chinese customers, our proud descendant of the Yellow Emperor 黄帝 would most likely be up in arms (no doubt reminded by her government of the past "150 years of national humiliation" at the hands of the West, with the mythical signs banning Chinese and dogs from public parks and all that rubbish). One of the things I find most interesting about the Chinese citizenry is how suspicious (and rightfully so) they are of their leaders when it comes to matters like air quality, corruption, food safety and so on, yet on issues that involve other nations (the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島, the South China Sea, Tibet etc.) they accept without question the official line. Han chauvinism triumphs over common sense.

But this was a vacation, and politics can wait until I'm back at work. Visit Guìlín 桂林 and Yangshuo, and you will experience crowds, noise, touts and scenes of poverty. You will also encounter stunning natural beauty, historic architecture, great food, friendly people and the China you saw from images in coffee table books and TV travel documentaries. The choice is yours to make. I'm happy with my decision:

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