China: Day 2

Day two begins a little more spritely for me, but less so for those suffering with jet-lag. Still no sign of cereals, creamy porridge or fresh fruit in the visitor’s breakfast canteen though.

Once we refuelled for the day, we made our way across the already lively campus to the economics building. The seminar today, by Prof. Lei Meng, was based on Labour Economics and China’s Growth Prospects. This was fantastic for me because demographic trends featured quite heavily in the discussion. Of particular concern for her, and many other Chinese economists by the sound of things, was the ageing population. She expressed major concern for the future of China’s economic growth rate and social welfare system as a result of the increasing number of retirees (and centenarians). Considering this will be the focus of my dissertation, I was in my element here. Having studied this topic for over two years now, I have examined the issue of ageing through many different lenses, and so I was able to contribute to the discussion in a slightly more comprehensive manner to that of the other Southampton students on the trip.

After the lively seminar we set off on the minibus, headed for Justsun. Justsun is a supply chain company (Ltd.) that acts as a ‘middleman’ to carry out all the logistical duties for a company. The company has been ranked one of the best in Fujian province, so the student helpers told us (although I’m not sure what the criteria was). We received a tour of their offices on the umpteenth floor of a luxury glass-walled skyscraper in central Xiamen – of course they had one of the best office views. Then we were treated by the Supply Chain Manager to lunch in a very extravagant “canteen”!

This afternoon we reunited with our fantastic tour guide Mrs. Tang, who took us to Gulangyu Island. This is a protected island that lies just a 10 minute boat ride away from Xiamen island. You’d have thought that the trip would be nice and painless, but to think so would be oh so naïve… I have often forgotten that queueing is not a cultural tradition here in China. You buy the tickets and assemble at the pier en mass; whoever is the first to reach the gates at the end gets on the boat first. You can imagine the scenes.

On the bright side, once we reached the island we were greeted with a delightfully green, peaceful (ignoring the masses of tourists), and natural island. Being such a contrast to mainland China has meant that mainland Chinese couples often stage their pre-wedding photos here, and wildlife is actually given a chance to flourish. This is exactly what we saw. The island itself has a great deal of history – particularly to do with foreign embassies and music. We visited China’s only piano museum here, which housed (fully-functioning) pianos from all over the world, dating back to the 1800s. We also visited the home of the Tang Dynasty emperors, the Wu’s. Wu Zetian was China’s only female emperor, and we visited a large expanse of coastal land that was designated and built on, just for her and the family. This included a huge artificial stone hide-and-seek playground for the children!

After an exhausting day in the sun (even with an umbrella!), we were relieved to see the sight of the crowded boat upon our return. We ended a great day by visiting a restaurant just up shore and we dined with our tour guide and bus driver.

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