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     Volume 7 Issue 1 | January 4, 2008 |

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From Red Square to Tiananmen Square
A Trans-Siberian Tale

Part 4

Hamid Rashid

Tiananmen Square - Entrance to Forbidden City

Finally in Beijing
The next day we left for Beijing another 30 hours by train. One can't help being fazed by the gigantic pace of change in the Chinese capital. Every time I come to Beijing, I enter a different city. It seems to be metamorphing endlessly. Our itinerary in Beijing included all the usual tourist attractions Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall climbing at Pudong and a trip to the Silk City. The most remarkable difference between China and Russia, and to a lesser degree between China and Mongolia is the relentless effort of the Chinese to sell. Even at the steps of the Great Wall, Chinese vendors sell photographs, memorabilia, water and all sorts of products and services. We felt the Chinese are not only apt in producing goods; they are equally skilled in selling them.

Forbidden City

A tour of the Silk City Shopping center confirmed our theory about the marketing skills of the Chinese. The shop girls were cutely aggressive in enticing their customers. A discreet inquiry confirmed that these girls receive intense training on customer psychology and on how to handle various types of clients. They learn how to give customers a guilt trip - or shame them - for offering a low price. The are masters in the art of negotiation. We have a lot to learn from China. Our trade negotiators should visit the Silk City in Beijing to learn the craft first hand. The same goes for our RMG exporters. Instead of keeping the salaries of their workers depressed, they should learn how to extract better price from the buying houses and the buyers in the West.

The Forbidden City seemed the least forbidden place in Beijing. The crowd was overwhelming, if not intimidating. A stroll in the Forbidden City removed any doubt that China has 1.4 billion people. It looked like a miniature of China itself. The whole nation seemed to draw their energy and pride from their glorious past to regain its position as the worlds' largest economy. China was the world's largest economy since the ancient time until 1820 when the Great Britain took over the number one position. Their visit to the Forbidden City seemed like a pilgrimage. Where are Bangladesh's historical sites that can give us the same sense of pride about our past? How do we make our younger generation proud of their national history?

Our 8165 km journey along the Trans Siberian stretched two continents, three countries and many cities and towns in between. It was a journey of a lifetime. We survived the Trans Siberian challenge. Our trip took us from mighty Moscow to gigantic Beijing two of the greatest cities of our time. They have great similarities, but even greater differences. Red Square and Tiananmen Square are essentially twins, separated at birth. They have grown to be different. Tiananmen looks to the future while Red Square holds on to the past. They both have two great leaders lying within their walls, perhaps turning in their graves over the changes that they fought to resist. Will Lenin and Mao be happy to see the capitals in which they breathed their last? Will Tsar Alexander III take satisfaction in the fact that the Trans Siberian railway that he envisioned not only carries freight coals and Russian locals, but also attracts honeymooners and backpackers from around the world? There is no way of knowing. We are happy that we did it before traveling by train across continents becomes extinct altogether.

On the Great Wall

The End

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