In Sichuan Province last week there was a big earthquake and the numbers roll in everyday. I think now it is over 250 dead or missing with tens of thousands homeless. In almost any other country it would be considered a massive disaster but here while it is significant in terms of numbers it hardly makes a big impact on the vastness of this country. None of this takes away from the real suffering that is going on in that area and while the government responded quickly and efficiently they do have a big task on their hands.
The other number people are watching going up apart from the stock exchange is the number of bird flu infections and deaths. SARS is still burnt deeply into the minds of people in this region and much of the fear is around the fact the threat is unseen and still unseeable. The fear of SARS was not so much the disease but what happens to an economy when the entire population is gripped by fear and everyone stops going out to buy, to dine and to shop. When the money stops moving so profoundly the number of business that go broke quickly is startling and that is an important set of numbers around here.
The Shanghai motor show is on and it is reported that there are over 800 cars on show. That is a mind-boggling number; the Chinese are learning to love their cars and this place is fast becoming a Jeremy Clarkson heaven with all that comes with that!
Today in my seminar a student arrived late and then her credit card did not work for some reason. The staff asked me what they should do and I reminded them that 20 years ago this student, Polly, found US $1,000,000 in a pillow in a hotel that she worked in as a maid and she returned the money to the businessman who had lost it. The story made the newspaper and her future husband was so taken by her integrity that he sought her out and married her. He is a very successful businessman and in China successful people are super successful so now she has love and money!
I am in Wuhan locally called the city of dust due to the endless construction but even with this air quality I try to walk for some time each day. To start with I had no problems except for the pedestrian crossing on very busy streets. As I looked at the constant flow of traffic I hesitated to launch myself off the curb in the hope of reaching the other side.
By day 3 I finally gave myself to the task of crossing the street and moved into position. Then I realized that others joined me with the same goal and the numbers grew and grew until our sheer mass surged out further and further until it choked off the flow of cars and we all crossed quickly and safely. Immediately the flow dwindled the cars took over again. Crossing the road now became a game of numbers and once I had the understanding it was easy and fun being in the flow.