Incredible changes in China

Recently I asked my parents and brother, what I can bring them when I visit them in China this summer. They said they don’t need or want anything. They have everything. Nowadays, you can buy everything in China.

How time has changed!

I remember when I made my first visit home from abroad in 1989, I used the money I saved from the scholarship I received from the German government and bought my parents their first wash machine (still in use), their first refrigerator, and their first color TV, all made in Japan.

I had to make a special trip from my hometown Suzhou to Shanghai to purchase the items. Only people with foreign currency and coupons issued by the government to those returning from abroad were allowed to buy these appliances at designated stores in a few big cities like Shanghai and Beijing. I could even sell the coupons for money. Not many people could afford to buy those big ticket items, and even if they had money, they couldn’t buy the imported appliances without the coupons.

When I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, we needed ration coupons to buy anything, from rice, cooking oil, sugar, egg, meat, to fabrics, watches, bicycles, etc. Everything was rationed.

When China changed its policy and opened its door to the world after the Cultural Revolution at the end of 1970’s, things started to change.

Universities opened their doors again. Young people could go to college again and later many had the opportunities to go to universities in other countries. I was one of them.

The ration coupons became history.

With privatization of government owned businesses and private businesses flourishing came the material abundance. You can buy anything in China.

The luxury goods market in China is the fastest growing in the world. Since luxury goods are much more expensive in China than in other countries, wealthy Chinese go to other countries to do shopping now.

Houses are more expensive in China than in the U.S. I heard that people from China buy houses on the west coast with loads of cash.

Brand name clothes and shoes are also more expensive in China.

People used to buy things like clothes in China to bring to the U.S., now they do the opposite. They buy clothes in the U.S. to bring to China.

When I had my 20 year college reunion in 2005 in Beijing, I found some of my classmates are much better off financially than I.

Today I read an article titled "Want to look rich in China? Get yourself a Tibetan mastiff" in the Pioneer Press. It sounded so crazy to me that wealthy people in China spend more than my annual salary to buy a dog.

It’s just unbelievable how much China has change in the last three decades. It has lost some common sense or even gone crazy in some way.

I know I will experience more surprises when I go back to China this summer.