China is a country of contrasts. This week, Missouri Chamber travelers have seen the Great Wall, palaces and temples preserved for hundreds of years. At the same time, we’ve seen the signs of China’s race to modernization marked by row upon row of high rise buildings going up in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. To understand the rate at which this country is growing, you need only try to count the building cranes that dot the skyline as far as the eye can see. China must add the urban infrastructure equivalent to Houston, TX, each month for the next 20 years to accommodate the rural to urban migration now underway. As a result of this growth, certain areas of China, like Beijing’s Hutong communities, are vanishing. The Hutong once made up the entire landscape of Beijing, with narrow lanes and passage ways between small houses and courtyards. The Hutong is being leveled so rapidly, in a few short years, this feature of Beijing may be lost forever.
The Missouri Chamber group had an opportunity to experience the Hutong first hand, riding through the streets in rickshaws and visiting a Beijing family for dinner in their Hutong home. Having the opportunity to experience a slice of Chinese life was a priceless part of our China experience.