Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Research Centre for East Asian Studies Groningen Blogs and Postcards

NAHSS experience by Marthijn Kinkel: Downtown Chongqing

There we were. Six NAHSS-participants shooting photos in front of a monument that marked the central point of downtown Chongqing. To my left, the largest Louis Vuitton store that I have ever seen, covering almost the entire Western facade of the square. When I turned my head eastwards, 5 story-high tv screens made me feel minuscule. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the brand new Xiaomi smartphone that was displayed. The shock was intense. A few weeks before I would never have guessed the amazement I felt at that particular moment. In fact, I had not even heard of a city called Chongqing back then. Yet, right there, I could only gaze at the advanced surroundings and I realised; China's development truly surpasses my imagination. While this realisation was sinking in, a group of teenage Chinese girls were drawing near. "Do you want to take a picture with us?" one of them gigglingly asked. We accepted the request gleefully and gathered in front of the monument. The excitement of the girls was clearly noticeable and led me to fall into the next shock. I recall myself wondering: what is so special about seeing Westerners that taking a picture with me, with us, could spark more emotion than the splendour of the square? Maybe it is the fact that Westerners are uncommon in the region, maybe it is because we resemble the development China is longing for. Maybe it is because we are almost 1.5 times the size of the average person that walked around the square. The exact reason for it I don't know, but it definitely felt flattering; seeing a sense of admiration in their eyes that I had never experienced before. For a moment, I truly felt proud and maybe even slightly superior, being someone from 'the West'.

But it also made me realise that this kind of reaction will soon be rare. Once the locals adjust to the presence of tourists and businessmen from the West, it will be us, standing in front of the monument, who will continue to be amazed by the unprecedented development of the city. Only now without the Chinese teenage girls to make us feel special too.

Last modified:23 August 2017 2.51 p.m.