Thanks for dropping by.
For me, the "Chinese
Currents" metaphor conveys a sense of the incredible scale and complexity of change that the people here have had
to navigate through since the flood gates of economic development were finally forced open. The economic "sea-change" over the past 30 years
has, in varying degrees, affected and continues to affect all 1.3 billion Chinese people. The extent of the social
change that has been driven by this force has to be seen to be believed.
The "sea-change" has been mostly good. In fact mostly very good indeed. Tens of millions have been lifted out of poverty. Hundreds
of millions have witnessed an amazing increase in their disposable income. And also, much further upstream,
there are now more than a million people who have accumulated wealth in excess of 10 million yuan.
This group are powering the development of the private sector, as well as the incredible growth in the luxury
As with all "sea-changes",
however, there is also a large degree of unpredictability,
not to mention disorientation. As a society shifts from "fairness" (everyone in the same boat, having
very little) to increasing inequality –
when neighbours who used to have as little as everyone else suddenly and conspicuously have more than those
next door – then discontent
"proximity of inequality", as I call it, is the most dangerous current on China's development voyage,
because the increasing "closeness" of inequality has a far bigger effect on the psyche – and, in particular, on people's notion
of status and well-being –
than inequality per se.
In the 25 years
since my first visit, I've been lucky enough to journey to all of China's 34 provinces, municipalities and
regions, and to more than 100 cities.
to photograph what I see, and write about what I see and hear. My longest trip was a 35-day 10,603-mile
rail journey from Beidaihe to north-eastern China, then to Tibet, and from Tibet to southern and then eastern China,
and back to where I started from. A series of articles that I wrote along the way, about how some of the people
I met are coping with the sea-changes in their lives, are posted at FAST FLOWING:
There's the story of the young lady who sells Ferraris in Dalian; a blogger in Beijing; a market stall trader in Haerbin who sells Santa Clauses; a national hero who runs the country's biggest sports brand; the auditor who tragically overdosed on hospitality; the school student who eats his way through the Pizza Hut menu; some
of the migrant workers who built the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium; the cook at a panda reserve in Sichuan; and quite a few others.
More recently, I've written 80 articles (about 80,000
words) that I've published in the 2012 to 2008 sections. And I've also taken many thousands of photographs (some of which
appear in the UNDER THE BRIDGE section).
On my travels I am always keen to listen to
local people telling their own stories of what has changed in their lives over the years, and what they think is
likely to change in the near and not-so-near future. I try to go that extra mile to find out what excites
and inspires them, and what washes over them. The key question I continue to ask myself is, how are the sea-changes here reshaping people's lives, opinions and also their relationships with brands?
My constant exposure to the complexity and magnitude of China's changing currents continues
to remind me that, even though so much water has passed under the bridge since my first visit in 1988, my learning curve
is as steep as ever.
I am also keen to explore
the wilder side of China (my wildlife photographs are posted in the Birds in China section). As well as finding more than 890 species of birds in China (and photographing more than 600 of
the species), I've also been lucky enough to see a Giant Panda in the wilds of Sichuan province and the very sadly now
extinct Yangtze River Dolphin in Jiangxi province.
that the children I see on my travels will – in say between 20 and 40 years from now – also be able to experience the joy of seeing a Giant Panda in the wild. This would indicate
that China, as well as the Giant Panda, is enjoying a bright future...
...That's because the degree of success (or otherwise) of vulnerable
species, and the habitat and ecosystems they depend on, tends also to be a good gauge of a country's human