China’s “Comfort Class” | The Bling Dynasty, National Geographic Magazine: Window on the World Amusement Park | Shenzhen, China

The Window on the World amusement park in Shenzhen allows Chinese to travel the world in an afternoon. Behind “Mount Rushmore” in this photo are actors playing Africans in huts and Egyptians at the Great Pyramids of Giza. Historically, Chinese have not been able to travel. Visas are difficult to obtain, so few come to the USA or Australia. Britain and Canada are gearing up for a Chinese tourist assault and other countries will follow. But for now they have to look at the “Eiffel Tower” and “Mount Rushmore” at Window on the World. Because of China’s one-child policy, instituted in 1978, this is the first generation in the world’s history in which a majority are single children, a group whose solipsistic tendencies have been further encouraged by a growing obsession with consumerism, the Internet, and video games. At the same time, today’s young Chinese are better educated and more worldly than their predecessors. Whereas the so-called Lost Generation that grew up in the Cultural Revolution often struggled to finish high school, today around a quarter of Chinese in their 20s have attended college. The country’s opening to the West has allowed many more of its citizens to satisfy their curiosity about the world: some 37 million will travel overseas in 2007. In the next decade, there will be more Chinese tourists traveling the globe than the combined total of those originating in the U.S. and Europe.

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