National Flux

Rebuilding, train from Shanghai

Rebuilding, train from Shanghai

Construction, destruction, factories, fields, power stations, superhighways, derelict buildings, canals, rubble mountains, grim and dirty terrace blocks, barges, cranes, abandoned land, windowless shacks, sparkling new apartment towers, a thousand tractors shoulder to shoulder, billboards, small farm plots, power pylons everywhere.

This ever-changing view passed by relentlessly at speeds of up to 200 kmh as our clean and modern train fled Shanghai. Change, construction, destruction seem everywhere in this place. Unlike Europe, where much of the view from a train window is likely to be the same in ten years time, I wonder if the landscape I’m passing will be similar in 2018?

After Nanjing, several hundred kilometres from Shanghai, the turmoil lost intensity. Naked winter trees dominated the landscape, sometimes marking large square ponds with no obvious purpose. Fallow fields were larger, less interrupted, and clumps of forest huddled here and there. A gentler landscape, but far from idyllic. More rural, less shiny or grimy, the older houses more lived-in and clean. it might be an illusion, but it looked less…. desperate? Or perhaps just more forgotten. Laughing teens in western fashion ignore the view.

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