I went for a quick trip to Hangzhou on Friday, to join the Lenovo Torch Tour. I did not visit Hangzhou for many years but went there several times in the past, starting in the very early eighties. Coming from polluted, dusty and chaotic Beijing, something close to a shock.
Yes Hangzhou was hot, hot, hot. Temperatures went close to the forties in the shadow and the Lenovo event – held outside – was a real endurance test.
But what made such an impression was the city overall. Clean, organized, pleasant traffic, modern, attractive. Plus the charm of the famous lake. Reminds me of Switzerland where so many cities are close to perfection.
In Beijing, roads are dirty, sidewalks are a mess, the surface of the roads are often pretty bad and overall the streets are chaotic and messy. Pavements, street dividers, sidewalks, walls, houses all show marks of poor maintenance and the use of doubtful material. Like the thousands of “parking meters”, never used, broken down: the company that made the deal must have some excellent guanxi or what? Compare that to Hangzhou. I suggest Beijing officials in charge of polishing the image of the capital before the 2008 Olympics make a fact finding tour to Hangzhou (without lavish banquets). Let them walk around the city, look at how are the streets are so well maintained, no rusty and broken down fences, damaged lighting, no ugly overhead cables hanging everywhere, good signage (most with English text), modern public transport.
I was given a tour around the city including the industrial and commercial areas. Whaw.
Long way to go really for Beijing. Coming back here, I immediately smelled the pollution, noticed the lack of vivid colors (due to the particles hanging in the air). The mess on the roads – just walk on Gongti Bei Lu.
Returning from a developed country to a much-to develop other country.
Not to wonder Hangzhou gets many top scores in surveys of Chinese cities.