My visit to the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Beijing, and Wuhan taught me several things I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to learn. I could study cases on the country, read books, watch numerous videos and attend classes for days but none of these would have taught me the amazing lessons I was able to learn, or given me the experiences I underwent, in the short span of time that I spent in the country. In this paper, I am citing a few things I learnt about China through personal observation and experience.
Wuhan City’s Slogan That Spoke to Me: “Different Every Day”
Wuhan is considered to be the central hub of Chinese politics, academics, finances, economics, transportation and culture. This city’s history dates back 3,500 years. It contributes significantly to the contemporary theory of urban planning. China desires to improve and optimize land function through reducing its population density and construction activities in itsurban and oldest rural areas, safeguarding historical boulevards and surrounding areas, and increasing open space, green land, and land use of major infrastructural works.
Local government is paying attention to the development of finance, administration, trade, academics, science, local tourism, recreation, culture and other regional services. The nation desires to reinforce urban landscape planning bymeticulously controllingevery urban architectural street, city square and centralized landscape for forming a view that blends traditional and modern elements.
Wuhan, for example, wishes to control theharguin – a part of Yangtze River and a sightseeing corridor for viewing the lakes and rivers – in addition to safeguarding areas featuring natural urban views (e.g., East Lake, Crescent Lake and Tortoise Hill, Longyhan Lake, Moshul Lake, andSouth Lake), to create a sound natural, historical urban landscape environment.
I relied on the efficient, air conditioned Chinese metro system for commuting in every city I visited: Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan. The system, which was clean, safe and state-of-the-art, surpassed the quality and efficiency of those systems in New York and Washington D.C., with commuters even forming a neat line right before the train doors. The long- distance ride between Wuhan and Shanghai was, in my view, swift and smooth. However, purchasing train tickets was difficult; at times, the train would be completely booked and the next train had to be taken; at other times, a 1- 2 month prior booking was needed.
In all restaurants I went to, no staff member spoke the English language and the menus were all in Chinese. Thus, when ordering food there, one can only bank on guesswork; one never knows what will end up on one’s plate. At one time, I remember ordering chicken in a Beijing restaurant, (or, at least, I believed what I ordered was chicken), but ended up with duck on my plate. Hence, when traveling in China, tourists should download language translation apps to minimize confusion. In turn, Chinese restaurants could better accommodate tourists who do not speak the local language by providing menus that are translated into multiple languages.
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Tourists would also do well to embrace the unique, delicious Chinese cuisine if translations fail.
Lack of Tourist Brochures
One surprising and disappointing thing I discovered in China was a majority of cities and tourist attractions lack an accompanying tourist brochure to assist visitors. For instance, at the Forbidden City, the sole brochure I found was in the Chinese language; no information could be gleaned in any other language. The cities strive to accommodate only Chinese tourists, paying little attention to non- Chinese speaking, foreign visitors.
Local Folks’ Tendency to Stare at Black Visitors
While the Chinese are a welcoming and friendly people, they sometimes tend to stare at Black tourists and even sometimes request to take their photo. Black tourists visiting China should know that, in my experience, this was likely due to mere curiosity and little exposure to foreign tourists of color. Despite the stares, I was treated with respect and openness, especially while shopping at the largest malls in Beijing, Shanghai, and Wuhan. One encounter that resonated with me was my experience shopping for shoes in Wuhan, where the store clerk did not speak English. She motioned for me to wait while she found an English-speaking clerk to assist me with my purchase. Another surprising experience was when a store clerk who did not speak English called her daughter on WeChat to assist me over the phone. I was amazed that she went out of her way to accommodate me and likely other customers like me.
Academic research: Property Tax in China
1. How could property taxes affect residents I met in both cities Wuhan, Shanghai, and Beijing?
Property tax is normally imposed on every kind of property – residential, agricultural, industrial and commercial – but where it imposed, local governments would be able to control skyrocketing housing prices, allocate resources, redistribute income, and stabilize local governments’ fiscal revenue. Residents in Wuhan, Shanghai, and Beijing who have large number of properties and are currently getting maximum profits from those properties, are at the greatest risk of losing out financially and may, naturally, resist imposing property taxes the most. In case of mandated payment of yearly land rent as well as property tax, there is a need to prevent resistance through balancing the property tax burden and that of the novel yearly land rent so that property owners would not be double taxed. In addition to the yearly land rent, introduction of the property tax double the burden on property owners and buyers1.
Property tax in China would be a game-changer for the real estate industry which has been often referred to as too big to fail. So far, the People Republic of China doesn’t have a property law and such would go a long way in dealing with the unstable real estate bubble in the country. The Chinese
Brys, Bert, Stephen Matthews, Richard Herd, and Xiao Wang, “Tax Policy and Tax Reform in the Peoples Republic of China,” OECD Taxation Working Papers, No. 18, OECD Publishing, Paris (2013).
Dale-Johnson, David, and Guozhong Zhu. "Transition to the Property Tax in China: A Dynamic General Equilibrium Analysis." Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, (2017).
Man, Joyce Yanyun. "China’s property tax reform: progress and challenges." Land Lines 24 (2012): 15-19.
Man, Joyce Yanyun. “Local public finance in China: An overview.” In China’s local public finance in transition, eds. Joyce Yanyun Man and Yu-Hung Hong. Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, (2011).
Wang,Xinling. “Is China Ready for a Property Tax?” The Diplomat, (December 06, 2017). Accessed 10 August 2018<https://thediplomat.com/2017/12/is-china-ready-for-a-property-tax/>
Xu, Yiyi. "Property Tax Reform in China." Royal Institue Technology (2011).