China Diary #1: Michael Snarr Reports from Beijing

Michael Snarr, professor of social & political studies, is accompanying the women's basketball team on its trip to the Orient this month. Over the next few days, he will share thoughts on what they've seen.

May 9, 2012

This blog is being written from a 10-day tour of Beijing and Shanghai, China. The group is comprised of Coach Jerry Scheve's Wilmington College Women's Basketball team, a few parents of players, and several community members.

As we expected, Beijing is large and teeming with people. With a population of approximately 20 million, it is one of the largest cities in the world. However, it is not as crowded as Shanghai, our next stop, because it spreads out over more than 6,000 square miles.

Mao Tse Tung viewed China's large population as a source of national strength, but in the 1970s the Chinese leadership reconsidered this viewpoint, and in 1980, established the well-known One-Child Policy. The government designed the policy out of fear that an exploding population would out-pace China's ability to feed its people.

After three decades of this restrictive policy it is being loosened, in great part, to head off another crisis. China's latest concern is that its aging population will leave it with insufficient young workers to support a relatively large group of elderly retirees.

(LEFT) Several of the players pose in front of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. They are, from the left, Courtney Tucker, Keya Neely, Bethany Ahrens, Makenzie Wippel, Brianna Peters, Chelsie Karling and Haley Howard.

Beijing's burgeoning population is fueled by migration from the countryside, as rural Chinese seek their fortunes in the city. One visible result is the congested traffic. Although a crowded subway and a multitude of bicyclists help alleviate the automobile traffic, slow moving traffic is a frequent reality. Another visible sign of Beijing population is the construction of new complexes to house the newly arrived migrant population.