China Elevator Stories

“Do You Know Deng Xiaoping?”

A cab driver in Shenzhen talks with me about politics.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


I take a cab in Shenzhen and chat with the driver.

He asks: “Do you know Deng Xiaoping?”
“I do.”
“He was a great guy. China would be quite different without him. I mean, look at Shenzhen, it would still be a poor fishing village if it weren’t for Deng Xiaoping. He has created millions of opportunities for people here. If Mao were still alive, all of this would never have been possible. China’s reform and opening-up would not have happened if it were not for Deng Xiaoping.”

I reply: “And I wouldn’t be sitting in your car chatting with you.”
He asks, astonished: “What?”
“Well, there weren’t many foreigners in China during the Mao era, since it was closed to the outside world.”
“Oh, you’re right.”

He then asks: “Have you ever been to Chengdu or Jiuzhaigou?”
“I have been to Chengdu, but not to Jiuzhaigou.”
“Jiuzhaigou is very beautiful. It has large natural forests with big old trees.”
“I do like nature a lot.”

He tells me: “I do like nature too. And I love the sea! Looking at the sea makes me feel very calm. I recently climbed Nanshan (南山, literally meaning Southern Hill, the hill Shenzhen’s Nanshan district derives its name from). You can see the sea from the top of the hill and you can also see Hong Kong. You have a 360 degree view. All the anger and annoyances of everyday life seem small compared to the sea.”
“I will have to check out Nanshan one day. By the way, where are you from?”
“I’m from Guang’an in Sichuan, from the same place as Deng Xiaoping.”

Have you ever had conversation like this?

Chengdu (成都) is the capital of Sichuan province
Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟), literally Valley of Nine Villages, is a nature reserve and national park on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in Northern Sichuan
Guang’an (广安) is the name of a city as well as a county in Eastern Sichuan, Deng Xiaoping was born in Guang’an county

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