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Brian Hennessy. China Australia Consult. 2005

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I look out of my 15th floor window. Across the campus to the First Affiliated Peoples Hospital rising in the middle distance. Across the crowded student dormitories and old staff apartments, grey 1954 vintage reminders of an ideological past long gone.

Below, new China rising. Reaching for a blue sky future somewhere above the grey pall of industrial smog. A new teaching building housing classrooms and lecture theatres sits opposite the basketball courts. Recent constructions down near the ping-pong tables house graduate students, four to a dorm. Ladies to the left in building B, gents to the right in building A.

I can see the twin brown tiled roofs topping the original medical school. Two grand old whitewashed structures. One confining the northern boundary of the main courtyard, the other the south. A less than grand (well they tried) library dominates the west, and a giant statue of Chairman Mao reminds us that the East was once Red.

This week celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Chongqing University of Medical sciences. There's much to celebrate. 50 years ago this institution was a humble outreach of the Shanghai Medical School, established by the new communist government to provide better health care to the more isolated areas of the new republic. Now it is a famous medical school in its own right.

Mao has a new coat of paint. His right arm is raised as usual, with his open palm facing the front entrance. "Is he asking for another five years", I enquire cheekily? “No, Brian,” says my colleague, “he’s asking for another 5,000 renminbi for tuition fees.”

I scan from left to right. Beyond the entrance, a flock of cranes (metal, not feathered) guard rising nests of scaffolding surrounding dull grey concrete and weathered brown reinforcing. Tattered lengths of green hessian surround the working areas of scaffolding, hiding the migrant workers who are building this new China, and protecting the masses below from any rubble that may fall from socialist reconstruction.

New wings for the First Affiliated Peoples Hospital, and new high-rise apartments for its staff. The more senior doctors enjoying the top levels, and the ever descending ranks of junior staff occupying the levels below.

The pace of change is astounding. In two and a half years here I have seen Chongqing change before my eyes. No exaggeration. 80% of the world’s cranes are now busy here in China, so I’ll let this statistic speak for itself.

China has much to be proud of. As ex-Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating says: "In one generation, China is lifting itself out of poverty and into rapidly developing nation status." A remarkable achievement, considering the size of the population, and the complexity of the problems facing the central government.

The central government deserves credit for managing this risky modern revolution. The scale of it is unprecedented. Everything here is big. Big cities, big population, big infrastructure. Big dams, big super-highways, and big migrant worker populations. Big complexities demanding big thinking. Big problems needing big solutions. Big ideas.

New China. The energy that has been released since Deng Xiao Ping’s Opening and reform Policy was introduced is atomic. How do you quantify it? The world has never seen the like of this before. Perhaps the huge task of managing this growth and all its intended and unintended consequences, has needed the direction and control of a stable and centralised power.

Five years ago a book on China predicted the implosion of this giant enterprise. Five years later, that biased opinion is as obsolete as it is wrong. It had the smell of wishful thinking about it.

The China that was described recently by an old hand as an unruly giant has indeed 'stood up.'* The humiliation China has endured over the last two centuries is being replaced by pride.

Ideology is dead. Nationalism is the driving force now.

(*acknowledgement to Chairman Mao's “China has stood up” statement made during his first address as leader of the new Peoples Republic of China in 1949). 



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