This article is adapted from AQ’s latest issue on China and Latin America
Talking to my Mexican peers, I notice a misconception of China as a monolithic country, ruled by an omnipresent state. In my experience, however, living in this country has meant leading vastly different lifestyles. My years in Hong Kong and Beijing have shown me the immense diversity that exists within China, a multifaceted country with a myriad of realities within its borders.
When I arrived in Hong Kong in 2011 as a high school student, I was mesmerized to see the city’s skyscrapers protruding from tropical mountains and old British buildings standing next to bustling street markets. Having lived in Mexico City my entire life, Hong Kong introduced me to a completely new lifestyle, where inhabitants of this world-class city merge the East and the West as part of their core identities. It also introduced me to the study of Chinese language, history and new hobbies, like the traditional lion dance and hiking the MacLehose trail.
After two years in Hong Kong, I was sure I had a good understanding of how lifestyles compared across megacities in Latin America and Asia. But then in 2017 I moved to Beijing. It was only then that I fully began to understand the diversity that exists within China. Indeed, unlike Hong Kong’s reduced spaces, Beijing seems like a borderless city, where neighborhoods with traditional hutongs (alleyways) are adjacent to government bureaus in Communist buildings and financial centers with modern skyscrapers. My time in Beijing pushed me to improve my language skills and delve deeper into the interactions between the old and the new in Chinese architecture and philosophy.
I am convinced that strengthening ties between China and Latin America will be of utmost importance for our generation. My time in China has showed me that Mexico — and indeed, Latin America — can draw useful lessons to help our policy-makers innovate in areas such as urban planning and economic partnerships. I would encourage my fellow Latin Americans to explore the diverse lifestyles that China has to offer.
Martínez has a master’s in global affairs (specializing in public policy) from Tsinghua University and works at a consultancy based in Mexico City.