Monday, February 4, 2019

Vancouver Courier column on China generates very mixed responses

Don't worry. This will never be approved in Kerrisdale!
At this driving range, you hit your balls into the water. They float!
Since writing my last Vancouver Courier column about China, I have been surprised by the variety of responses I have received. While a number of people wrote to agree on how clean and technologically advanced many Chinese cities are, especially when compared to what they expected,  others wrote highly critical letters damning me for praising any aspect of China, given the country's human rights record.

A number of people also posted comments on the Vancouver Courier website which I am pleased to reproduce here, since I generally agree with the points made. That said, I would welcome further comments regarding the level of homelessness in Chinese cities compared to Vancouver and other Canadian cities.

  • Do you suppose there were no visible homeless because the local authorities do such a good job of caring for people that are destitute, vulnerable, or mentally unstable? Or do you think it might have more to do with coercive measures that keep them out of sight?
    Homelessness was much less visible in North America, years ago, but then we also had laws against vagrancy and loitering. We gradually realized that afflicting the miserable in order to soothe those better off was not really compatible with notions of fairness and justice.
    I am happy that the lives of many Chinese citizens have improved vastly in the past two decades. But, I am also reminded of a timely quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky. “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons". There were also many glowing reports of progress submitted by visitors to the 1936 Olympics. I pray that we will not some day be drawing parallels to that time.
  • Avatar
    Great article, I remember when I first traveled to SE Asia back in the 1990s. I was shocked at how much more advanced was the urban technology versus what we had in Canada. Shocked because I had the naive view that we lived in The Best Place on Earth (TM). I've been back several times since to ~ 5 different SE Asian countries. Highlights for me were, in no particular order, LED billboards showing how full to capacity were parking garages (e.g. 85%), the current air quality at specific sites, computerized highway signs showing traffic volume ahead and on alternate routes to facilitate flow, beautifully lit multi-colour riverside walks, superior urban and regional transit (e.g. high speed trains), and so on. Every place has pros and cons, including SE Asia, but there is a lot to love and as the author writes, Vancouver could learn a tremendous amount in terms of making our city wonderful. One barrier to this would, however, be the opposition to spending money to improve the city for productive residents - for which I'd expect howls of rage from the usual Poverty Inc. hostile minority; "how can you spend money on ... taxpayers when we have addicts/ prostitutes/ excons that are going to take those public funds?!?" And as such, the chance to improve Vancouver could well be stolen before there was even a chance.


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