Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Today we visited the Great Wall at a long section far out of Beijing advertised as "less touristy" than the more famous bit just past the Ming Tombs. We rode a bus a couple of hours, climbed a steep hill lined with very aggressive vendors, and rode a cable car to the wall itself. There we got a tai-chi lesson from a "master," and then spent about 45 minutes hiking the length of the restored area. Since everybody in China humps brands at every opportunity, I thought I would promote a brand that has been very good to this blog, and tweak the Commies all at once:
Caption: Power Line stands atop the original, literal power line, the ultimate expression of Chinese imperial military power.
Actually, the Great Wall -- like the Maginot Line and other famous attempts at static defense -- did not keep out invaders. It did, however, keep out illegal aliens, who would stream south into China to avoid the bitter winters of the north, burdening the local economy and disrupting the social order. It also turned out to be an excellent means for moving Chinese armies laterally, the top of the wall serving as sort of an elevated road.
If we do end up building a fence along the southern border, we should spend the bucks to make it just this cool. In fact, I think we need battlements, lookout towers, and ports through which to shoot arrows.
Here's another shot unburdened by any blog promotion.
I last visited the Great Wall in 1984. Then, there was only one state-owned souvenir shop, in which there were disinterested clerks and cheap, but nevertheless overpriced, merchandise. I bought a red T-shirt that said "I climbed the Great Wall."
This time (at a more remote location), there was a long gauntlet of extremely aggressive vendors who sold all manner of souvenirs, including the identical T-shirt pattern I had purchased 22 years ago. In particular, today there is much more Mao paraphernalia than I remember in 1984 -- perhaps enough time has elapsed since the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution for Westerners to snap up Mao "logo" attire. Mao is just another cool brand.
A couple of the teenagers on the trip, sons of a conservative Detroit businessman, bought Mao t-shirts and received compliments all around for their excellent taste. Somehow Western elites do not condemn Mao as they reject Hitler and Stalin, perhaps because the Chairman did not murder millions of white people.
The other big difference, of course, was in the terms of trade. I bought a non-Mao t-shirt for my son. The opening price was a laughable Rmb. 185, equal to about US$22. We worked her down to Rmb. 30, but only with the help of our Chinese guide, at whom the vendor screamed for helping the Americans at the expense of her fellow Chinese. I'm sure, though, that I still paid more than Wal-Mart.
"a conservative Detroit businessman" How did that happen? I didn't think they had conservatives in Detroit.
When we build our "Great Wall" on the southern border, we should use only illegal alien labor. Just to enjoy the irony of it.