The move toward modernization is evidenced everywhere in China: exotic architecture in Shanghai and modern highways, infrastructure and high-rise towers everywhere. Why then, does it persist in looking a bit down-at-the-heels, even in the modern cities?
- Building supplies are poor. For example, galvanized nails and screws seem not to exist here so when a new A/C unit or window guard is installed, it is set with screws and brackets that rust. In short order, the building exterior becomes stained and ugly. (see caption/picture below)
- I request a land line at school so I wouldn’t have to hang my head out the window to pick up cell reception. No problem The white wire pictured here is the line run to connect my new phone. It is fed through a hole in the wall that at one time fit an A/C unit. (see picture above)
- Wrought iron fencing is very popular but appears not to be treated, so within a short time frame, begins to corrode in a very serious fashion. It is unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
- In a country able to plan for wholesale change in the location of the population, builders seem unable to contemplate needs in advance, like A/C. In a lot of places, like Jiaxing, you NEED A/C. But the builders don’t install it in advance as it is an expense for the future owner (remember the apartments are all sold as shells which the owner needs to finish as desired). So when people move into the apartments, they hire someone to install it for them. The result is what you see in this picture—hoses going every which way and creating an eyesore.
- Newer apartment buildings have addressed this problem, often building-in a set location for A/C. The white pipe running down the wall leads out of the A/C location, which is an improvement—now the condensed water will be guided away from the building and not just allowed to drip down wherever (like on our building). Too bad the pipe is white but whatever.
- Maintenance seems like an unknown concept, particularly of buildings. Instead of regularly inspecting and repairing things as anticipated, things are simply allowed to take their course and repairs will be made only as necessary. At that point, someone—probably some guy who is handy with a screw driver and duct tape—will be called to ‘fix’ the problem. Attention to detail or aesthetics are not required. In some places– in Shanghai, Jiaxing, in villages we have seen on our travels– we have seen traditional brick houses that are disintegrating. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that a roof could be removed and replaced. Instead, a variety of make-do materials are applied—a sheet of corrugated iron or a tarp held down by bricks—which will last until the whole thing collapses. Probably it is a question of finances, but it seems sad.
- When repairs are made and paint touched up, if the colour of the new paint is roughly in the same family, it is good enough.
- Some things just aren’t important in China. Our friends, Rob and Shelley, recently moved into a very nice apartment complex in Shanghai. They had a satellite dish installed: the dish sits on a ledge on the deck and the wiring hangs like a clothesline across the right angle to an outside wall where they drilled a hole close to the window frame and pulled it through. Have the neighbours complained? Has the president of the strata council called? No and no. The only concern that was raised was when the window washer needed it moved a bit so he didn’t get tangled up in it as he hung suspended from a rope with a board at the end of it, anchored on the roof of the apartment. (Ed. note: Rob even asked the installer to drill the hole through the first window and closer to the patio and then run the wire off a splitter inside and along the baseboard to the further room. Sensible, right? Apparently not. The installer just looked at him and then did it this way.)
Deficiencies certainly breed invention. Have a look at the repair on this corroding roll-up door. It is “sewn” together with wire and will last another few or more years.
Nothing really has to be done well or right and certainly doesn’t have to be pretty, which leaves China always appearing a bit shabby. With 1.4 billion to feed, there are bigger things to worry about.