China, which everyday captures the world headlines due to its rapidly growing economy that is pulling
thousands of people out of poverty and what many consider the next great superpower, is bursting with pride.  We
saw this pride in the eyes of many Chinese as we traveled across this vast country.  But, there is only one place in
China where you can get your full dose of China Power, the home of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing.
     On the cusp of China’s National Holiday, Erin and I spent seven days in Beijing and everywhere we turned we
saw images of “China Power”.  After all Beijing is the capital of China and thus the seat of the world’s largest ruling
Communist Party.  Like most tourists, we quickly made our way to Tiananmen Square to see the “Washington Mall”
of China.  The large square with huge beautiful gates as bookends and flanked by stately government buildings
has a commanding presence by sheer size alone.  There were plenty of guards checking bags and patrolling the
square, but no more or less than you would see in Washington D.C..  The first thing I noticed was that almost every
monument or government building is named “The People’s” this or that.  For starters, you have the “Monument to
the Peoples Hero’s” and the “Great Hall of the People”.  Even the country is called the “Peoples Republic of China”!  
Well, I guess this place is all about the people.  Speaking of people, there are plenty of them, and they were out in
full force during the week of their National Holiday.  Almost every child in Tiananmen Square was waving the China
flag as mom and dad snapped photos.  It was a sea of China red flying at about four feet from the ground.  
Although these photos were definitely cute my personal favorite was a family shooting pictures of their baby
urinating on Tiananmen Square.   My wife has told you all about the Chinese children with slits in their pants to
simplify the peeing and pooping process so I will not go into detail regarding this strange practice here.  But as I
watched these parents proudly capture their child peeing on China’s most revered monument, I had to wonder if I
was secretly witnessing a small protest of the Chinese government unfold before me?
     I thought watching living people in Tiananmen Square was fun but it appeared most people preferred to view
the deceased, or at least one deceased.  Yes, just like Lenin you can view the body of the Peoples Republic of
China founder, Mao Zedong, in the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall.  Some days they have to work on the preservation
of his body so you just view the waxed representation.  I wonder if you can tell the difference.  We missed out on
this adventure but we did see the massive portrait of Mao hanging on the Gate of Heavenly Peace.
A Tiananmen Square monuments for the people. Behind the
monument is the building that holds Mao Zedong's body.
The famous Mao Zedong portrait on the Gate of Heavenly
Peace which is located at the north end of Tiananmen square
     The most humorous medium to see “China Power” is through television.  One must have goals in life and I think
the Chinese government has laid out their goal.  Beat the USA!  Before you get all worried and build a bomb
shelter, please hear me out.  I don’t mean the Chinese government wants to destroy us.  I simply mean just like a
boxer has to beat the current champion to be the best, the Chinese also want to be the best and they believe the
USA is the current heavyweight champion.  Here are a couple examples we heard during the few minutes we
watched television.

• China plans to build the largest national park in the world.  Even bigger than the USA’s Yellowstone National Park
• It took the USA approximately 70 years to start building energy efficient cars, China will do it within 10 years
• China’s Olympic goal is to win more gold medals than the USA

     You are probably thinking that we are just weird self-centered Americans (which we might be) but it was
actually a UK couple who told us to watch TV because the Chinese compare everything they do to the Americans.  
Again, please don’t waste your money on a bomb shelter.
     If you are still a little worried,
let me explain our favorite thing
about China—the people!  It all
started in the Hangzhou bus
station when a lovely and very
happy couple from Shenzen
approached us.  They were
enjoying their own vacation and,
like us, were waiting for the bus to
Wuzhen.  Although we could only
communicate with a few English
words and lots of pantomiming
they adopted us for the entire
day.  They negotiated prices for
cycle rickshaws for us and even
bought us lunch!   After spending a
full day with them they made sure
we boarded the right bus back to
Hangzhou.  Then, a couple days
later as Erin and I were strolling
through Hangzhou’s night market,
we bumped into them again. The
Hangzhou night market bustles
along one main street.  The main
street is lined down the center
and sides with small stalls selling all sorts of toys, tea, food, and other Chinese goods.  Each stall’s lights luminate
the dark sky and add a festive feel to the market. When the wife spotted us she literally started jumping up and
down in excitement. Seeing her genuine joy at running into us again was awesome, and made us feel like we were
reuniting with old friends at a State Fair rather than people we just met a few days before. We spent a few more
hours strolling through the market as they purchased gifts for their baby daughter before we said our final
goodbyes.  My vision of her jumping in excitement to see us will stay with me for a long time.
     A few days later in a small town called Qufu we had another great experience with locals as we were exploring
the neighborhood.  A few gentlemen were playing a lively game of table tennis in front of their small shop. Erin and
I stopped to watch and before we knew it they invited us to play.  For an hour or so we played ping pong with four
or five men from this local shop.  Again, we could only communicate with hand and body gestures.  After we finished
our friendly matches we utilized the brief Mandarin-English language dictionary in our Lonely Planet guidebook to
communicate that we would return the following day for some more table tennis.  The next day we arrived to find a
larger crowd and a table tennis ringer waiting to greet us.  This recent college graduate humbly informed us that he
was the best table tennis player in all of Qufu.  He did not disappoint.  After numerous thrashings I finally ended
the pain and asked for a few pointers.   We had a wonderful time that afternoon.  We exchanged emails and finally
had to say goodbye to the warm hospitality of Qufu.
     We had several more encounters like these with the Chinese and our last one came on the 47 hour train from
Beijing to Lhasa.  During that train ride a young couple asked us to join them for dinner.  They enjoyed practicing
their English and we made a feeble attempt to learn a few more words in Mandarin.  After dinner they accompanied
us back to our six berth cabin.  Two berths were still available so they tried to lobby the conductor to let them sleep
in our cabin.  The conductor would have none of this so eventually they had to return to their cabin.  They stopped
back by our cabin several times to visit and practice their English skills with us.  
     We used up everyday of our China visa and saw many displays of China Power.  While the Chinese government
is focused on building a more prosperous and powerful country and using the USA as a benchmark, the Chinese
people seem more intent on creating friendships between the two nations.  In the end, we discovered that China
really is all about the people.
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China Power
The friendly couple from Shenzhen who showed us around the watertown of Wuzhen in
the pouring rain.
The ice cold ringer who worked me over game after game.
The two Qufu gentlemen who invited us to play table tennis.
Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing