I have been working in China and India this month. As I have sat in some never-ending traffic jams, in both Shanghai and Mumbai, I got to thinking about how similar and different these two nations are; and also how much they have changed since my first visits. My first trip to China was in 1996, and to India, as a child visiting my grandparents.
On the surface, the first and most obvious similarities that strike me are their population size, the constant throng of humanity, the general business of life occurring on the streets in these big cities with people everywhere you cast the eye. Both of these populations are driven to succeed, there is an obvious hunger and aspiration for a higher standard of living and material goods such as cars, houses, mobile phones, travel and educational opportunities for their children. The impact of these changes has been greater urban populations that inadvertently place excessive pressure on the infrastructures to support them; hence traffic congestion, a consequence of greater car ownership.
There is a significant increase in the numbers of shopping centres, high-rise buildings and an overall affluence of these citizens; while simultaneously a growing disparity between the rich and poor. Population growth and the rise of the middle class in these big cities has had a substantial impact on the urban environment from increased food choices, more leisure activity choices and a greater sense of self confidence.
I have been reflecting on what will these cities look like in the future? Will they look more like the Western cities or will they preserve their own identities? How much change will there be in the way people live their lives….and will it always be for the better?