Sidewalks and streetlights

By Pauline D.Loh ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-02-21 07:20:09

Beijing does not sparkle from the air. Instead, it emits a sort of dim glow like an exhausted firefly at the end of an arduous mating ritual.

The reason is really quite simple. The Capital City takes energy conservation very seriously, and has observed the frugality drive it has preached since the tough times of several decades ago.

While the rest of China's major cities have started to enjoy the rewards of 30 years of an open economy, Beijing still feels obliged to abstain from the guilty pleasures. Perhaps someone forgot to update the austerity standards.

Strange as it may seem, sidewalks and streetlights are now the new indicators of how Chinese cities are getting along.

Shanghai, brash and bold, is very conscious of appearance. Its ancient alleys may shield shantytowns and its rural regions harbor communities breeding pigs, chickens and ducks, but the casual visitor would never know it.

Instead, this southern belle shines with cosmetic luster, impeccably groomed and attentively accessorized.

Shanghai sidewalks are lined with magnolia trees, modern malls and mansions carefully preserved from another time. Its streetlights are both ornamental and bright. It certainly lives up to its reputation as a shining Pearl of the Orient.

Further south, the other jewel along the South China coast has never had any problems shining out. Hong Kong's skyline is a sight to behold on any night flight in, and it advertises its glamor like no other city I know. Its well-lit highways twinkle like strings of Christmas lights. 

As for Hong Kong's sidewalks, they are crowded, busy, and slightly dirty perhaps, but you would be too busy looking at the bargains to notice the grime.

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