China's modernization brings it closer to the world
Editor's Note: As a lawyer, policy adviser, filmmaker and social enterprise pioneer, Laurence Brahm is not only a keen observer but an active participant in China's reform and opening-up. "Laurence Brahm's Diary on China in Change" is a special series dissecting the colossal changes Brahm has witnessed in his 37-year stay in China. In the eighth episode, Brahm shares his views with CGTN on China's modernization.
CGTN: You said in your article that when you first came to China, people were staring at you as if you were an alien dropped out of space. What are the changes in Chinese people's attitude to foreigners in the past four decades?
Brahm: I'll never forget I arrived at Beijing International Airport. Everyone is staring at me, and I heard everybody is saying Wai Guo Ren, Wai Guo Ren, foreigner, foreigner. I felt like an alien. And that lasted for some time. There was enormous curiosity. This is a whole different era today. Chinese are all over the world.
They are buying international brands, in many ways, driving the consumption of those brands. They are seeing the world, and they're bringing a lot of those ideas back, just like during the Tang Dynasty, when Chang'an was the center, everything was coming in. It was a melting pot. And in many ways, China's major cities today, and now its second-tier cities, are melting pots of all kinds of international influences that are coming in and mixing with Chinese culture.
CGTN: What are the differences between Chinese and Westerners in their attitude to life?
Brahm: I think those differences are getting more and more less, and I think there are more and more similarities. Those similarities are a factor of communication, trade, global ideas, (and) the fact that we are now having more global integration between different countries and cultures. You find Chinese people here drinking red wine, eating Western food. You go to America; you find people eating Chinese food, Japanese food, Philippine food. You see Westerners learning martial arts; you see Chinese are learning MMA fighting, boxing.
And I think what's happening is we see more communication, and with that, we'll have more understanding and a breakdown of barriers, (and) a breakdown of stereotypes. I can enjoy your world. You can enjoy my world, and in that sense, our world is smaller.
CGTN: You said that buying a bottle of 1-dollar coke was decadent in 1980s' China. From your perspective, what has China's reform brought to people's lifestyle? Among them, what impressed you the most?
Brahm: China has undergone a complete transformation from an economy of scarcity back in 1981 when I first arrived here to today, 2018, China is an economy of surplus. It has everything. Right now many Chinese, they have acquired a degree of comfort and they've acquired even wealth.
But at the same time, they're searching for spirituality to understand who they are, where they came from, and where we're all gonna go. And in that respect, you see a rise here in all kinds of interest in Buddhism, Taoism, many different aspects of spirituality, meditation, yoga, Kung Fu, Tai Chi. All of these, now, are integral parts of the Chinese lifestyle.
It was a very different China when I came here in 1981 where people were trying to figure out how to eat and how to survive. It's now a China that is looking at its own spirituality, evolving further its own values, and in many ways, looking at space and looking at quantum communications and looking at the future in a way that many other countries are not even thinking about yet.
Reporter: Liu Jianxi
Creative planning: Li Yunlong
Videographers: Wang Yucheng, Wu Jinjing
Video editors: Liu Lian, Xu Qianyun
Producer: Wei Wei
Supervisor: Zhang Shilei
(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at email@example.com.)