Trend is to hold economic summits in non-metropolitan cities. Barack Obama held his G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. Hu Jintao stuck the BRICS summit in Sanya, on the tropical island of Hainan. The idea is to promote local economy or, in Hainan's case, sell it to international tourists. |
The realty sector, a third of Hainan's GQP, is busy trying to convert the island into Hawaii East. This is evident in Yalong Bay. But Hainan seems likely to remain a destination for affluent Chinese. My Marriott had a number of foreigners - but the remotes in the room were all in Chinese. Mainlanders see Hainan as another-worldly experience. "Not like China. Very special," one of interpreters, said a boy from Hunan who once studied in Hainan.
BUDDHISM IN CEMENT
A popular site is the awkwardly named Nanshan Buddhist Cultural Tourism Zone, where spirituality, commercialism and Beijing's social engineering combine to produce a sociological experience. A religious SEZ.
Everything, temples, deities and whatnot don't date beyond 1988. Middle class Chinese come, eat ice cream, buy souvenirs and a few, largely elderly women, buy incense sticks and bow three times to the 108 metre tall statue of Guanyin, goddess of mercy.
The guide speaks of Tang idols, but the brochures are more honest: they are all replicas. A genuine set of Ming bells is sadly lost in concrete.
DISSIDENCE ON RAILS
Hainan should be the ultimate opiate: Forever Tropical Paradise - the provincial government's slogan; ersatz religion; international diplomatic glory and one of China's fastest growing local economies. But a train ride gave a glimpse of why my hotel's wi-fi doesn't recognise facebook. A middle-aged Chinese man next to me asked, "Are you Indian?" He was a professional from Xinjiang the Muslim-dominated province in northwest. He talked about how Chinese, based on Bollywood films; believed Indians were "truly love". Romantic, I think.
His family had many Muslim friends and he had found them to be "good people," the Quran a book whose principles would make China a better country.
Then why the unrest? "Chinese have racial bias. Muslims cannot find jobs ... Beijing oppresses, doesn't understand Xinjiang." Since I presumed I was being trailed, I worried he would suffer for his frankness. I steered back to the apolitical. But he persisted, "Better Xinjiang not be ruled by Beijing." (An Indian diplomat later said, "That's why he spoke in English so the police wouldn't understand. ")
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