Zhengzhou is a quite interesting city to live. It is the capital of one of China’s poorest provinces and the most populated of all of them. So even though the coastal area profited most of the economic growth in this country, still this province did not stay unchanged neither. There is a lot of movement from the countryside to Zhengzhou in hope for a better job, more money or just to live a more “modern” life. This is why this city is changing so much and so fast. Big construction sides everywhere. A subway system is under construction of which the first line opened recently. New Highways are built through the whole city making traffic a total chaos at the moment. Big apartment complexes suddenly rise up in every corner of the city. The smell of fresh concrete is always in the air and surely all the demolition to make space for this changes contributes a lot to the air quality here.
But the city is alive. It is growing up, like a child passing through puberty to become an adult it is still forming its identity. The majority of people here are still the first generation of settlers. Their real home is somewhere in the countryside in this big province of Henan. Because of this the overall mentality here in this city is also much more like in the countryside than in a big city. It probably will take 2 or three more generations until the majority here really feels like Zhengzhou people and starts to take care of this city in a way like it was their home.
So at the moment this city is a big chaos. A chaos that reminds Hudie a bit of home as Chaos in certain ways is part of developing countries in general. And a chaos that I feel in some aspects to be like a certain kind of freedom, coming from a country where everything is normed.
Traffic is one of the areas where this freedom is most obvious. It stays a mystery to me how people are able to survive their childhood without dying in daily traffic here. The rate might be higher than in many other countries but still much lower than I would expect it to be. One reason might be that people do not really drive fast within the city. But besides this everybody is driving exactly like I was told not to drive when I made my driving license. Nobody really looks around before turning in any direction, everybody insists on his rights, the trillions of E-bikes here often are loaded with more than 3 people, vehicles are usually overloaded with all kind of goods and in a way that does not seem secure at all, cars drive in the wrong direction, sometimes even on the sidewalk, pedestrians cross the streets everywhere but not at traffic lights. As I do not drive a car here I can really enjoy the beauty of this chaos.
An other good side of it is that farmers enter the city on their tractors and just sell their goods directly at the street corners. So you can buy fresh and local vegetables at any time here.
Like this it happens that you have the little farmer selling his watermelons next to a big shopping centre, where he probably never will be able to buy anything. The shiny little shops in there, with their expensive goods hardly receive any customers, because there are so many of them. But even in a fast food restaurant in a shopping centre like this the noodles are still hand made.
The more we travel by subway from the west to the east of the city the more modern it seems. First the shopping area with its Erqi-tower and the thousands of led advertisements and then the business centre, a really fancy area, created out of nothing within the last ten years, with all its big buildings, lights and fancy cars. The place where the rich and famous live and where Zhengzhou wants to show that it is longing to be one day something like Shanghai or Shenzheng.
Zhengzhou is still far away of being a grown up city, but it is developing really fast and we are lucky to experience some of the most important time of its development.