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China and the changes I have seen

Updated: 2014-03-17 13:10
By Barbara Hallanger (

Since I first stepped foot in China in 1992 I have noticed many changes. There are more automobiles on the road than ever before but fortunately the highways have improved. There used to be far more bicycles and small, rickshaw-like carriers, except they were motorized. I still see them on occasion, but not nearly as many as before.

Another big change is that the hospitals have improved drastically, at least the ones that I have visited. When I went for my first medical checkup back in '92, nobody at the hospital spoke English and it was not a pleasant environment. Recently, I went to another hospital in Sichuan Province and it was clean, almost all of the staff spoke excellent English, but the best part was how inexpensive it was. Only 10 yuan for the blood test, prescriptions and full checkup. I was very impressed. Oh, and since I have this terrible fear of needles, I am happy to report that my blood test was the most painless blood test I have ever had. On top of all that, the hospital staff was extremely kind and gentle.

One thing that I wish had not changed is that there are a lot more western (European and American) type buildings. I think the old style buildings, with the curved roofs and so on, are much more charming. I haven’t enjoyed the westernization of Chinese cities so much.

There are now many more Walmarts and other western style department stores, and western fast food restaurants, such as Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Starbucks, and others, and we even now have a few Burger King restaurants in Chengdu, although I've heard they don't offer The Whopper. I haven't been to the Burger King, but I have to admit, the sound of a flame broiled burger is appealing. I rarely eat at McDonald's, but it's nice as a foreigner to know it's there if I ever have a Big Mac attack. That being said, it is something I kind of hate to see, the Chinese people embracing fast food is becoming a huge contributor to obesity, and the Chinese have traditionally eaten very healthy foods, with a lot less meat and more veggies. Still, it is a reminder of home, and I do occasionally enjoy an Egg McMuffin, though when I lived near McDonald's in Shenzhen I did put on too much weight. Nowadays, my Chinese friends and I tend to cook at home, which is a lot more healthy and delicious.

One thing that has remained the same, though, is the kindness and friendliness of the Chinese people. That is one thing that impresses me greatly, the hospitality of China. I hope that never changes.