Last night I had a tip off. Chinese Idol auditions were happening today, in Shanghai, around the corner from where I live. I dropped off to sleep more than excited at the prospect of what I would see. The memories of William Hung on American Idol all of those years ago were still fresh in my memory. "Times that by an entire population and you are going to have one hell of a morning!" I thought to myself.
As I rolled around the corner towards the concert hall I was met with a hum of voices. Not the singing kind but the kind of hum you have when you are at a big concert or gathering. I could feel the excitement in the air even before I could see anything. I walked up a set of stairs and in front of me opened up a sea of people. Young hopefuls wishing for their chance to get in front of the judges and more importantly cameras, for the one opportunity to be famous. For a moment I forgot that I was in China. All I could see were youth, dressed in their best youthy outfits, taking selfies, talking on their phones, smart phone praying, and chit chatting with their friends. The outfits were, for the most part, westernised - a few strange 'look at me!' type numbers were getting around - but for the most part colours were matching, patterns and prints weren't clashing and there was a bit of sophistication about.
There was a man on a microphone hyping up the crowd and keeping them entertained. I have no idea what he was saying but I do know that he was counting down from 5 (I can count to five!) and then everyone would wave their little flags and banners and scream. Then out came a drone to film people. It was buzzing like an oversized bee above the crowd and they all went a bit crazy, then they realized they needed a picture and about 2000 phones were aimed up in the air... As was mine. I've never seen a drone before. Ok! I needed a picture... And a video... And then a close up picture. Fine! I am just as bad as the youth of China. But I did not take a selfie! I can promise you that. I was looking terrible so definitely no selfies!
As I stood and watched the people and felt the buzz I realized that soon at least one persons life in that crowd would be changed forever and the rest of them would go home and back to their normal lives. Or would they?
China is said to be on the verge of recession. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal Asia that the stimulus package the government had applied to the economy had not seen much of a result, property prices were down and the government needed to ease up on foreign trade embargoes to let more money into the country. My thought when I read this was "Is the government doing a bit of creative accounting?" I can see none of this. The rent in Shanghai is similar to what it is in Darwin. (Outrageous) In the compound that we live in there have been renovations going on in a couple of apartments so that the owners can rent them out to people for top dollar. There are new shops, cafés, bars and restaurants opening weekly. In the month that I have been here one new bar has opened and 3 more are currently being built within 100 meters of home. I can see that the street that we live on will be completely transformed in 12 months if things keep on as they are. There is so much disposable income, this area alone could keep the country afloat and it is not all westerners either.
China is a place that is heavily controlled. If not by the communist party then by the mafia. For the most part, the way I see it, others may disagree, China is a country full of drones. (Not the flying type I saw today) but of worker bees. Ones that have been told to do something and everyday they do it. China is not a country full of inventors, it is a country full of hard workers who do not stray from what they have been told to do from a young age. It is a country that manufactures everything from clothing to fluffy cute stuffed koala toys. Workers not thinkers. I do not in any way say this in a derogatory way. They are wonderful at what they do.
One of Greg's beautiful athletes was granted permission from her coach to audition for Idol. She has a beautiful voice, universal appeal, fit, pretty. All of the characteristics a judge would be looking for. Being a professional athlete she is effectively employed by the government. She is housed, fed, clothed and paid by the government to bring glory to her country, her province, her ancestors and her family. This is what they are taught from a young age. You don't feature in the list. You work for everyone else's glory. She was accepted into the second round of auditions. Her coach denied her permission to attend. She "is an athlete not a singer!" She believes she is a singer not an athlete. Her dreams shot down... For now.
Today I saw a different China when I visited the idol auditions. I saw a China where the youth are brave, they are knowledgeable, have stood up to their parents and are doing as they please. I saw hope in the eyes of the crowd, excitement at the possibility that they might have a shot at changing their future. If there is one place in the world where anything is possible, where you can change you and your predetermined future, it is China. They will bring glory to their country, province, ancestors and family but it just might be in a different way. A way the family had not thought of before.