Today is our last day in Beijing and before we leave we visit Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City and the Beijing Zoo to see the pandas.
Today the main square of Tiananmen Square was closed off to the public since the Russian Prime Minister was visiting. They were in the city to sign a multiple billion dollar contract of sell China petroleum. We could walk around the perimeter of the Main Street up to the street. Security and military personnel were visible everywhere. We did not feel anxious but it was difficult walking with the crowds that were disappointed not being able to walk on the Square.
Across the street was the huge mausoleum of Chairman Mao. It's odd to see his burial site that displays his body since persons are primarily cremated throughout the country. Mao was a forceful political leader that lead the fight against the Japanese invasion. But his efforts to regain control of the government during the failed Cultural Revolution (1966-77) brought havoc and it is estimate that 30+ millions died and many from starvation. Once Mao died in 1976, the new country leadership shifted its direction and energies and started focusing on recovery and toward modernization.
It's amazing the level of responsibility that the Chinese government must have to manage a country with a population of 1.350 billion people. Currently 60% of them are farmers and that can be a major handicap toward modernizing the country. Their current major political goal is to relocate 250 million farmers into cities within the next ten years.
I have to think about the issues that the central government of China must deal with in terms of population growth. India, which is a neighbor, is projected to soon have a population greater than China. India currently has 27 million births per year. Thus China must deal with providing the basic services and resources need to maintain their ever growing population. Their one-child policy has slowed down their population growth but even then it continues to grow.
As we head or the Beijing zoo I realize how gentle and friendly everyone has been with us. We have walked as individuals and in groups in many public areas.
The panda exhibit in the zoo was modest and we got to see a couple of them sleeping. They are quite large and seem to like to be alone. We saw one at a distance asleep and the another one all we could see was their rear. They are quite cute and awfully big for being distant relatives of raccoons. We were in the zoo foe an hour and then we had to leave.
Practically everywhere we go there are large groups of people but despite the crowds people are somewhat patient. If you look at someone they normally smile at you. It's quite unique that the majority of road and business signs are in Mandarin and English. Persons in the hotel that come in contact with the public speak English but many of the employees do not. The majority of the people we have been in contact with greet and smiled at us. Our traveling group usually eats dinner together and discussed the day's events and I have not heard any issues raised by anyone about being treated abnormally. What we are all taken in is by the absence of open space without people. People in Beijing are not all squeezed together but you find people everywhere.
Now we are off to the airport to fly to Xian which is in the middle of the country.