The 'Sleeping Chinese' exhibit (updated)
The first picture below is from the Qingdao Beer Festival in the summer of 2006 -- back when I made the rookie error of thinking that a "beer festival" would offer a greater variety of brands than I could find in the local shops. (The most exotic brew I found at the festival was Pabst Blue Ribbon, which had its own promotional tent.) This photo is of some construction workers who, as I later determined, had not been laid low by drink but were just taking a little break. The following shot is a standard street scene in Shanghai from about the same time. More in similar vein after the jump.
I mention this in connection with the fascinating collections of photos on the "Sleeping Chinese" site. They're similar to what I'm showing here but vastly more numerous. In an introduction to the collection, the site's author, Bernd Hagemann, a German living in Shanghai, says this:
I gotta warn you! Before you click through my large collection of photos,you should not forget, what you hear and read daily in of your home country's media about China's boom.
They talk about "The Sleeping Giant". About "The Birth of the New Super Power" or "The Awakening of the Red Dragon". Often with a strange kind of undertone, which is supposed to frighten us. The reality definitely looks more peaceful.
Obviously this kind of analysis can be taken too far. Probably people have been sneaking catnaps even in the most aggressive, malign and dangerous of history's powers. But the sheer abundance of napping photos on the Sleeping site is one more illustration of why it's hard to maintain a 24/7 state of alarm about China's ceaseless rise if you're exposed to the way most people in China actually live and behave.
More photos below.
Another Qingdao beer festival scene, of beer waitresses resting; then another from Shanghai's French Concession area; then cross-national bonding mediated by beer in Qingdao. (Beer is fresh-from-the vat Tsingtao Dark, which in the circumstances seemed very good. Qingdao and Tsingtao are new and old spellings of the same place, like Beijing and Peking -- the beer retains the old name for branding purposes, much as a leading university in Beijing calls itself Peking University in English. Thanks to Lawrence Wilkinson for lead to the Sleeping site.)