Where there’s in­ter­net, there’s a way

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - Zhu Lixin Con­tact the writer at zhulixin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Dur­ingmy re­cent four-day stay in Wuzhen, Zhe­jiang province, I spoke with a cross-sec­tion of its denizens. Peo­ple said they are pleased that the town’s in­fra­struc­ture has im­proved much in the past three years.

Of­fi­cials were proud that an in­creas­ing num­ber of en­ter­prises have been flock­ing to the town. En­trepreneurs said their busi­nesses have seen grow­ing re­turns.

Since it wasmy first visit to Wuzhen, I wasn’t sure how the sit­u­a­tion was years ago. But some things did im­press me.

When I ar­rived at Wuzhen one late evening, I couldn’t wait to do two things: con­nect to Wi-Fi and go around the town.

Free Wi-Fi in pub­lic ar­eas is now avail­able in Wuzhen. Such a ser­vice isn’t rare any­more in cities, but it means a lot to a small town like Wuzhen.

I first vis­ited the Wuzhen West Scenic Zone. That yielded a funny ex­pe­ri­ence. About 10 min­utes af­ter I en­tered the zone, I mis­tak­enly got on to a path used by very few peo­ple, and I found­my­self ex­it­ing the zone through a gate.

That was just as well be­cause about 3 kilo­me­ters from the ho­tel, I found a bi­cy­cle sta­tion along the street. Its sign­boards guided me on how to ac­cess a bike us­ing my smart­phone. The whole process took me about 10 min­utes, but it was worth it be­cause it of­fered a two-hour free ride.

Later, lo­cals told me hun­dreds of such bi­cy­cles be­came avail­able at dozens of such dock­ing bays at the end of last year.

Hun­dreds of new-en­ergy ve­hi­cles are also avail­able, for a small fee, across Tongx­i­ang, the city to which Wuzhen is af­fil­i­ated. Again, all you need is a smart­phone to make use of the ser­vice.

I ped­alled across streets and lanes, past shop­ping cen­ters and res­i­den­tial ar­eas, and found there were many ho­tels, though some of them were far from the scenic zones.

One day, I spoke with a ho­tel owner, who has rented more than 20 res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties for his busi­ness. He said he didn’t care much about the lo­ca­tions of the ho­tels. What’s more im­por­tant is how to make them spe­cial, as cus­tomers these days book rooms on­line and ex­pect to have dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences as ho­tel guests.

This will­ing­ness to em­brace new tech­nolo­gies and be up to date with lat­est trends is in­te­gral to Wuzhen and Tongx­i­ang, I think. For in­stance, lo­cal of­fi­cials im­pressed me with their will­ing­ness to stay con­nected with me through WeChat, a pop­u­lar in­stant mes­sag­ing app. In fact, some of them proac­tively added me to their WeChat con­tact list.

They be­lieve in­ter­ac­tions in flesh and blood are fine but not enough, in the sense that so­cial me­dia could help fa­cil­i­tate ex­change of ideas on a sus­tained ba­sis.

That was a pleas­ant con­trast to their coun­ter­parts else­where. I’ve in­ter­viewed many of­fi­cials in other re­gions of the coun­try and of­ten sought to re­main con­nected with them via WeChat. Many of them would just ex­cuse them­selves, say­ing they don’t use so­cial me­dia as they have too many things to do ev­ery day.

How I wish they would hear one of Wuzhen’s of­fi­cials who said: “Nowa­days, very few things can be ac­com­plished with­out the in­ter­net, but by em­brac­ing it, you can reach fur­ther.”

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