Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Slowdown - what slowdown?

I had occasion to visit the neighbouring city of Tianjin a couple of weeks back. The opening of a high-speed rail shuttle (trains every 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day, with most of them taking only a little over half an hour) has made this an attractive option for occasional day-trips out of The Beige. Being near the coast, with a small river running through the middle of it, Tianjin is a considerably greener and fresher proposition than my dust-clogged, smog-choked hometown. But I digress.

I had an hour or so free before my meeting, so took advantage of the first day of properly warm spring weather to go for a stroll along the riverbank. There are several large construction sites adjacent to the railway station in the centre of Tianjin, ranged along either side of the river. Most of them seemed eerily quiet, almost deserted. Quite a few were completely deserted. They had that ominous air of buildings that have been left half-finished for months (or years) and seem likely to remain so permanently. (We had a fair few of those in Beijing 6 or 7 years ago, but they all got tidied up ahead of the Olympics.)

I counted around two dozen tall cranes distributed among these sites. Only three of them were in operation.

Mere anecdote! Flawed observation? Isolated, untypical, statistically insignificant instance.

Perhaps. But I get the impression the construction boom has ground to a halt in Tianjin city centre, as in many other places across China.


JES said...

Wow -- Tianjin sounds positively idyllic, next to some of your accounts of Beijing. Are you considering a halfway solution to your whether-or-not-to-leave-China dilemma -- a relocation just to a different city?

Froog said...

Nice to have you back, JES.

The natural environment in Tianjin might be slightly nicer (I caught it on the first day of spring, with fresh breezes blowing in from the coast), but it is one of the ugliest cities I've ever visited. Much of the city centre is constructed in that grandiose but severely plain modernist style the Communists were so fond of. It was trying to look very futuristic; and in the 1950s or early 1960s, it might even seem to have succeeded. But it dated very rapidly. Tianjin's the kind of place that at once seems oddly familiar. Then you realise it's like a rundown version of the cityscapes you saw as a kid in The Jetsons.

There are other cities in China I'd consider living in (Kunming, Suzhou... maybe Shanghai); but I can't relocate anywhere without a visa.

JES said...

Yeah -- it was Kunming I remembered from an earlier post (although I had to look it up just now, heh).

"Back" may seem temporary. A couple of my family will be staying with us from this afternoon well into Monday, and although they know of my online jones* it would be awfully tacky to indulge it while they're here!


* Hmm. Where does that usage come from, anyhow...?