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Mike's China


leaders. The flags in the Bund are a proud reminder that the buildings are
now firmly in Chinese hands and the days of foreign subjugation are gone.
The foreign presence in Shanghai was not entirely bad for t he city. The
foreigners brought prosperity and were opposed to the "Boxers" who were a
conservative bunch in league with the oppressive Manchu Dynasty. When
the British and French put down the "Boxer Rebellion" and sacked the
Manchu imperial pleasure palace, a lot of people in Shanghai were content
with the outcome, even if they didn't like the way it was achieved.
The foreigners had "Concessions" of land upon which they built small
towns for their nationals. The British and American Concessions have been
swallowed up by recent development but large parts of the French
Concession remain untouched . Its restaurants and bars were favourite
venues for young revolutionaries in the early days of communism. Perhaps
that's why it is so well preserved ... I don't know.
I do, however, know something about the attractive, white-barked trees that
line the boulevards of the French Concession. They are now found
throughout China and widely believed to be French. That's something of a
misconception. The trees are native to North America and were introduced
into France two hundred years ago. France is full of them.
A piece of advice: If you buy something in one of the many antiques
markets, don't let them wrap it out of sight. If they do, open the package
immediately and make sure you've got the correct item. Substituting
something inferior is an ancient scam and I felt very silly when I found I had
fallen for it.
4 Nanjing
Nanjing was founded almost three thousand years ago and was formerly
China's capital. The Nanjing Treaty of 1842, following the first of the so-
called "opium wars", granted Hong Kong to Britain. The war was over
the "right" of foreigners to sell opium to Chinese nationals. Imagine the
Mexicans insisting on their "right" to sell drugs to Americans.
A hundred years later, the city endured the infamous Nanjing Massacre
when Imperial Japanese troops slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians in
an orgy of blood letting that gave the lie to the claim that they were on the
Asian mainland to liberate Asians from Western colonialism.
Despite the ravages of history, much that is old and impressive still stands
in Nanjing. The city's ancient defensive wall survives in huge sections. The
bricks from which it is made are stamped with the manufacturer's name. You
can see who made the good bricks and who made the bad.
 
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