Red Felt Star December 26, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Does anyone – FAQ? Ben? Yuhang? (all I can understand from Yuhang’s post is the word S-Bahn standing out like an ugly sore thumb amongst all that calligraphic beauty and I am instantly convinced that China has nothing to learn from Europe) (OK, apart from when it comes to trains. Didn’t the Germans build that Shanghai train that goes at 400lyps (light years per second)?) – know what the Chinese for ‘red felt star’ is and is there a town in China called it?
The only sign that it’s been Christmas in the BiB household at all, apart from me feeling as rough as a cat’s tongue, but that sensation doesn’t have to wait for Christmas to come round, is that, as I traipse around the place prissily thinking of things to divert me from work and blogging, I keep stumbling across these little red felt stars which have dropped out of our Christmas tree (a bit of whirly Ikea bamboo). And naturally this all got me thinking about the state of capitalism with a Chinese face and China’s own industrial revolution.
So does anyone know how it all works? Does China do it Soviet-style, only better? Is it localised, so that one town does red felt stars (for all occasions) and another does blenders and another does Santas and another does computer chips? That’s a bit how things worked in the Soviet Union (but without the Santas). And is a bugger if your country’s going to go and insist on ripping itself to shreds. Belarus was left with tractors and machinery for heavy industry carried out elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Now you can never have too many tractors, of course, especially in countryside areas with a high homosexual population density, but you can have too many bits of machinery if you’re in Belarus and the process they’re needed for is taking place in Uzbekistan. Now I am not an economist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am awfully clever, so this is my warning to China, because their spate of growth might easily be improved with advice from me. Concentrate your bits of industry here and there if you please, but don’t put your spare parts industry in breakaway regions because you’ll be buggered then if the country tears itself apart. And, while I’m at it, my warning to Uighurstan and Tibet is not to concentrate exclusively on making things for other things made in the rest of China or you’ll be berating yourselves like nobody’s business if your breakaway dreams come true.
Phew! That’s China saved. And one fewer resolution for 2007.
I also began to wonder what sort of place Red Felt Star Town, if it exists – which it probably does, let’s face it – might be. A former fishing village upcoast from Shanghai three weeks ago and now a sprawling, exhaust-fumed metropolis of skyscrapers and 20 million souls? Rich, definitely. Obviously we didn’t choose to purchase the red felt stars which are now practically crowding us out of our flat but some viral product placement campaign which we were too weak to resist somehow got them placemented with us. So someone is buying their product. Red Felt Star Town would probably have quite a slew of red-felt-star-themed recreational facilities. The Red Felt Star ten-pin bowling alley would be next to the Red Felt Star hypermarket. There’d probably be a Red Felt Star beer (though that would admittedly come from a satellite village – 3 houses and 12 people last week, skyscrapers, motorways, congestion charges and 14 million this – down the road). The Red Felt Star factory would be the town’s main employer and would dominate the formidable skyline. It would have helped fund the construction of the city’s rapid transport system. It would run kindergartens. Children’s theatres. Homework clubs. It would finance twice-yearly trips for the staff. The day would begin with employees chanting the Red Felt Star philosophy and mass physical exercise. The town’s inhabitants would wear protective face-masks.
The Soviet Union produced its fair share of Red Felt Star towns. Up shit creek now of course, many of them. (Although I hasten to add that I’m sure many are blossoming back into life in new guises and hope that my fantasy Chinese megalopolises will never meet the same fate.) I have a friend who is the most positive person in the world. I want to be her. She is beautiful and charming. Incapable of complaining about anything. Can only see the good in everything. And just as well, as her job is to single-handedly transform the former Soviet Union into a Western-style paradise. She actually gets to give the advice and warnings that I don’t get to give to China to bits of the old SU. I was in awe as, a second after graduating from university, whilst the rest of us went off to work as people-smugglers, or think of doing another degree, or wondering where it had all gone wrong, she whizzed off to Shymkent in Kazakhstan to transform it overnight. By all accounts, it was not the brightest jewel in the silk route’s crown. (Oh my god, I see it’s twinned with Stevenage, ACTUALLY the most horrible place on earth.) Its main industry – I think it was making tyres. Perhaps for the tractors in Belarus – had collapsed. I wondered how positive girl was going to find a bright side. But she did. “It has a lovely market,” she explained.
Christmas is a fearsome pain, but hopefully we’re keeping the red-felt-star-makers happy.