China Trip Spring 2023 – observations and thoughts

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At the Detriot airport #DTW Delta Airlines international departing gates, I waited for about 12 hours before boarding the PVG bounding flight. I walked inside the terminal from one end to the other a couple of times. I passed by the London bounded gate, and compared to the PVG bounded flight, I can sense the different atmosphere, on a few different levels. I had to admit I like the London bounded gate atmosphere better, it’s more festive. In contrast, the PVG-bounded flight has more stress, mostly related to the paperwork for the Covid PCR test. We know it’s not rock science per see, but because of recent memory, and I think in one incident Delta airline has to turn around the airplane mid-air (over the pacific), all this added to stress during travel. For practical purposes, the “Mandatory paperwork to enter China” in my earlier blog post should work for everyone.

Aging Parents

My main mission for this trip is to see my parents. When I was new to the US, a professor at Rolla complimented on the “respect elders” culture in China. To be more specific, it’s “Filial Piety“: Filial piety is a Confucian concept derived from Chinese culture, which advocates a set of moral norms, values, and practices of respect and caring for one’s parents. According to the dual-factor model of filial piety, reciprocal and authoritarian filial piety are two dimensions of filial piety. I heard this English word from a Chinese professor (Liu Ming) in 2020, the Chinese word for it is 孝顺. Along those lines, there is this line: 父母在,不远游,游必有方: 父母在世,不出远门,如果要出远门,必须告知自己所去的地方。 “方”指”一定的去处、方向,更重要的是指“方法”。 意思是父母身体健康时外出,要让父母知道你的去处是安全的。 如果父母的身体需要照顾,而自己又需要外出就“必须”安排好照顾好父母的“方法”,以尽孝道,即游“必”有“方”。What does that mean? Basically it says one doesn’t travel far if one has parents (to take care of). And if one has to travel, he/she must tell where he/she is going, make sure the place he/she is traveling to is safe. And last but not least, if the parents (are old/sick and) need care, he/she must make arrangement regarding take care of the parents.

Many years ago, my father was not happy that I decided to come to the US for graduate school. He used his own example of not taking he Gao’kao 高考 (China’s college entrance exam) when he was high school senior, because he wanted to take care of this parents, at home. They were about 40 years apart. And I think in those days the average life span for Chinese people may be 70 years old. But I didn’t listen and I came to the US, did graduate school, started working and have my own family here.

In recent years I tried to see my parents about once every two years, but the routine was interrupted by the pandemic and the control measures. Thus I didn’t see my parents in person for over 3 years, and as the border opened in Jan 8, and no more quarantine measures. I took the bait and booked the air ticket on Jan 29. The pandemic in past 3 years was not kind to my parents, and I can see they are aging. My mom who was outgoing, and likes to interact with her friend in Lao’nian Da Xue 老年大学 (elders’ university), as well as serve in the community, before pandemic. This social content of her daily life was cut, and I can see it had impact on her. My father who is more introvert, doesn’t have a healthy daily routine. I assume he looked at computer and phone for quite some time everyday, or watching TV. And he complains about his son going to America, consistently before my mom. I don’t think mom likes to hear that, plus I don’t know whether I should say it’s a blessing or a curse, but my mom lost some hearings in last few years as well. Her health was not the greatest before pandemic, and it got worse during pandemic. She was hospitalized a few times in last 12 month or so. She was happy to see me back for a week, after the 3+ years gap. And we are planning to get her and my dad some more help in their daily lives.

I visited my in-laws too: they are in the same province. They live in a senior living apartment, and they can pretty much sustain on their own so far, including cooking etc. But they can buy food if they don’t want to cook, and the medical staff is nearby if medical care is needed. So their living condition eased our worry to some extent.


I have a twitter thread related to this. The technology in China has improved tremendously in last 20 years. One can see it from the high speed rail (gao’tie 高铁 🚄), the popularity of EVs: there are many brands in addition to the well known ones such as BYD and Tesla. Mobile apps including 12306 (train ticket app), Alipay, WeChat (pay), and Gao’de Map are both popular and helpful for the most part. I am sharing some of the hands on experience below. Please note some of the issues around high speed rail as well (see this tweet).

Facial recognization

Boarding DL 389 (DTW to PVG), they scan the face instead of scan the boarding pass. Again one Chinese gentleman was wondering how they do that. Facial recognization is widely used actually, in the mobile apps too, in addition to the Apple build in FaceID. I saw the bank apps and Shanghai health QR code mini program (随申码小程序)are using the homegrown facial recognization technology. (Update 04-16-2023) Interestingly enough, today when I was trying to log into IRS website and get some tax for myself, and I found out the scanning of driver license and my face is also used. Basically what I did here is very similar to some of the mobile apps used in China. So we have some sort of technology convergence here. Similar for robots below. For example, today I saw the Schnucks robot “tally” charing by itself, which is similar to the food delivery robots in China hotel.


I saw robots for food delivery in hotels (Shanghai Hongqiao, and Ningbo Beilun), and robots for cleaning at Hongqiao hub (underground leve).

Out of gate, I went to the Yong’he Da Wang (永和大王), the popular Taiwanese place, and tried to use WeChat pay. It failed because I did not update my ID’s issuance date and expiration date. I was able to update later on.

On the other hand though, I do recognize a lot of practice or technology are learned from the west. For example, when the nurse give new medicine and in-fusion, they would ask the patients name, DoB, the only thing I didn’t hear is the last 4 of the social.

12306 App (Apple, Google Play): again this is the train ticket app. So upon arrival at the Hongqiao hub (from PVG), I decided to buy the train ticket, at the ticket counter. Note the human service counter is rare nowadays, a lot of purchase are done via app, website and the kiosk. So I bought the ticket, paid the cash, got the change, and got an idea of the approx. departing time. No paper ticket. The ID is the ticket (self scan the ID at the train station for checkin). Later I realized I don’t even know the train number. So I downloaded the app (I used it before), logged in, and saw my e-ticket there 🙂 Btw, noticed the score (rating) for the app are 3.0 (out of 5.0) at Apple iOS App store, and 3.4 at Google Play store. Not bad for a large app like this.

At Beilun KFC, the cashier suggested I use the app to order. I gave her my phone, tried to download the app, it went to the US App store 🙂 So eventually they manually process for me every morning, and I pay via the WeChat pay.

Human factor

Again I don’t like the cigarette smoking, which is still popular in China: from the platform on Gao’tie (inside Gao’tie train is not allowed; regular train has a designated smoking place), to the street, and other indoor places (which in my opinion, it’s quite nasty).

Yield to pedestrians at cross walk. Is crosswalk another thing China learned from the west? I can see the cars (the drivers) in Shanghai did a much better job yields to pedestrians, say compared to Ningbo Beilun (2nd or 3rd tier city).


I like to chat with people, especially open-minded people.

网约车司机的故事:郑州来的女生,去年十月因郑州疫情来上海(trying to make a living, as Zhengzhou was shutdown and she could not drive for a living). I notice that her mobile phone has a privacy guard screen 手机有防偷窥保护屏. She asked if there are Alipay and WeChat pay in the US, and I said they are rare. 她问我美国有没有支付宝,微信支付,我说没有或较少。She also asked the things that corresponding to Alipay and WeChat pay, I said credit card and Apple Pay 相应的应该是信用卡和apple pay。

Back to STL, the Lyft driver is an immigrant from Hondulas || 圣村:31/2岁左右洪都拉斯🇭🇳来的小伙,感觉搞硬件比搞软件牛,因为他说是个人都可以学着学程序,而他现在还不认识一个可以把电脑组装起来的人:我说best buy 的geek squad, 和micro center 应该有人会装。他同时感觉中国比美国牛。我们讲到2001年9月11日,他讲到他大概十岁左右,他妈妈送他到私立学校有美国老师教英文。那天有人告诉美国老师纽约世贸中心被炸的事,老师当场痛哭。我告诉他那天早上我在电视上看到世贸中心有幢楼在冒烟,直升机🚁在傍边转,后来发生的事情对美国产生深远的影响。

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