For a while, I thought I would not go home this past winter break. Luckily, I was able to find a fairly priced flight, which gave me a decent 17 days stay at home two days before scheduled departure. All of a sudden I was packing my luggage and leaving for China. My break at home was relaxing and I did get to spend quality time with my family. However, I have mixed feelings about Chengdu, my hometown. In my memory, Chengdu was a metropolitan city with pastoral and relaxed characteristics. One and a half years later, I found Chengdu was starting to lose its traditional characteristics due to high inflation in China.
When a large sum of money is chasing a few commodities, inflation results. That’s exactly what happened in big cities in China. With the world’s fastest growing economy, Chinese people have been accumulating their wealth for a decade. With a still partially controlled economy, there aren’t many investment vehicles to park people’s money. Where did the money go? Real estate – a decent size apartment can cost a quarter of a million US dollars on average; stock market – a market crash is always followed by another boom inflated by individual investors’ dreams to get rich overnight; cars – Chengdu is now has more than 2 million cars running around during rush hours (it’s a pain in the … trying to get around at those times); food in general – a pound of imported cherries from California for example is $18. Of course local produce is cheaper, but CPI is still growing at a 4+% rate.
Under inflationary pressures, people are tightening their discretionary spending. Restaurants are no longer full at dinner time. People work even harder to live life and pay down home mortgages. More importantly, it seems to me that the city is losing its slow-paced, relaxing lifestyle. Some of my classmates studying abroad have come back from US, UK, France, Italy, etc and were looking for jobs in other cities like Beijing, Shanghai. Classmates staying local have been busy working towards a secured future. A crisis mode has replaced the city’s pastoral mindset. That’s sad to me!
However, there is still an upbeat attitude in China overall. The 2nd largest economy has become the world’s largest IPO market. Local firms have been reaching out to the world and the world, especially, US firms are entering the Chinese market. Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase just won government approval to form joint ventures to take a stake in China’s lucrative securities market. China is growing exponentially. I guess some culture loss might well be a result of that.