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My Return to China—After 18 Years

美国老人回到阔别十八年之久的中国!

I spent three weeks, September 9th to 29th, in China with my wife Rosie (who was born and raised in China, of Chinese ancestry). This month’s diary consists of random observations I made during the trip.

【9月9日至9月29日,我和妻子罗西在中国待了三周。罗西在中国出生和长大,拥有华人血统。九月的日记就写我在中国旅途中的随机观察。

This was my first visit to mainland China since 2001, eighteen years ago. By coincidence, that 2001 visit was my first since 1983, also a span of eighteen years.

自从2001年来中国大陆已经过了18年了,这是18年来我第一次再来中国大陆。巧合的是,2001年距离我1983年第一次来大陆,正好也是18年。



I brought a nice fat book to read: Robert Merry’s account of the Polk presidency. Got sixty pages in but dozed off.

为了打发时间,我带了本很厚的书:罗伯特·梅里对波尔克总统任期的描述。看了60页,我开始打瞌睡。

Tuesday, September 10th: Arrive in Peking.

9月10日,周二:抵达北京。

One less minor travel chore

旅行中一件微不足道的小事

At half past six in the Peking evening, actually. On Eastern Daylight Time, New York is twelve hours behind Peking, so no need to adjust watch. Cool … except that we are looking at maximum jet lag.

实际上是北京时间晚上6点半。东部夏令时,纽约比北京晚12个小时,所以不需要调整手表。好酷呀,不过要考虑最大时差。

Laoyi and Yifu

老姨和姨夫

Rosie’s aunt and uncle are our hosts in Peking, as in 2001. Uncle has checked us into a good upmarket hotel less than two miles south of Tiananmen Square. He and aunt live in a small apartment a few blocks away.

和2001年一样,北京接待我们的主人是罗西的姨妈和姨夫。姨夫把我们安顿在天安门广场以南不到两英里的一家高档旅馆里。他和姨妈住在几个街区外的一间小公寓里。

Neither of them speaks any English, so my Chinese is going to get a stress test. The first thing is forms of address, which I’d forgotten and had to be reminded about.

两人都不会说英语,这对我的中文来说是个不小的考验。第一件事就是如何称呼,我早就忘光了,他们得提醒我。



If you walk north half an hour from our hotel you hit Chang-an Avenue, the main east-west drag through central Peking. If you then hang a right and walk east a few hundred yards you’re opposite the entrance to Zhongnanhai, the big park-compound where China’s senior leaders live. Keep walking east and the avenue goes right across the front of Tiananmen, the “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” with Tiananmen Square at your right.

从我们住的酒店往北走半小时,就到长安街了,这条东西走向的主干道贯穿北京市中心。右转,再向东走几百码,就到了中南海大门的对面。中南海是大型园区。沿着长安街再往东走,经过天安门,天安门广场就在你的右手边。

We decide to take this walk. When we get to Chang-an and hang the right onto the avenue, however, we come to a security checkpoint. October 1st is National Day, and it’s a big one this year: the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic. There are to be huge parades and displays, and this whole central area is being secured in preparation.

我们决定就这么走。当我们到了长安街,右转后一直往前走,不一会就碰到了一个安全检查站。10月1日是中国国庆节,今年的国庆节很重要:庆祝中华人民共和国成立70周年。这里将举行盛大的游行和展示,整个中心区域都被保护起来,紧张地筹备。

The checkpoint guard wants to see our passports. We didn’t bring them; but Rosie turns on the charm and he lets us through. We walk east along Chang-an and take pictures outside the Zhongnanhai entrance gate. At this point we decide we’re tired of walking. We have to catch a train mid-afternoon, too. So we pass on Tiananmen and head back to the hotel.

检查站的警卫要看我们的护照。我们没带在身上;但是罗西施展了魔法,他就让我们通过了。我们沿着长安街往东走,在中南海大门外拍了照片。这个时候,我们决定不再往下走了。我们还得赶今天下午三点左右的火车。于是我们穿过天安门,回到了酒店。



On this outing I’m pleased to see that a lot of the old hutongs—narrow alleys characteristic of the old city—have been landmarked and preserved.

在这次远足中,我很高兴地看到许多老 胡同——具有旧城特色的狭窄小巷——都被标记并保存了下来。

The Installed Base problem

用户群问题



Mid-afternoon we go to the railroad station for a six-hour ride up to Siping in northeast China. It’s 470 miles as the crow flies, so six hours is not bad. This is in fact a gaotie, a high-speed train, that can reach, depending on the line, over 200 mph … but there are a lot of stops.

下午,我们去火车站,要坐6个小时的车才能到东北的四平。北京到四平的直线距离是470英里,所以6个小时不算久。实际上我们坐的是高铁,高铁是高速列车,根据线路的不同,时速可以达到200英里每小时,不过中间要停很多站。



There’s a unxized workforce and an entrenched management/patronage bureaucracy—a lot of iron rice-bowls that can’t be broken. The Installed Base.

这里有工会工人、冥顽不化的管理层和赞助官僚,这里很多人的铁饭碗是打不破的。用户群。

For thin consolation, we can reflect that a hundred years from now all these spiffy gleaming Chinese transit systems will be Installed Base. They will be as crappy, ill-maintained, and ill-managed as today’s New York subway or La Guardia airport. Probably a lot worse, in fact, given what we know about Chinese quality control.

聊以自慰的是,我们可以想象100年后,中国这些光鲜亮丽的交通系统都会出现用户群问题。这些地铁会像今天的纽约地铁或拉瓜迪亚机场一样糟糕、维护不善、管理不善。事实上,考虑到我们对中国质量控制的了解,这里的情况可能更糟。

Everything looks great when it’s new, duh.

咄,什么东西都是新的看着好。