Basic to an understanding of China is the fact that it is a Third World nation. The country is clearly very poor. Eighty percent of the population is rural and a large number of the urban dwellers are engaged in low-status, unskilled jobs. There are many involved in trade and selling for artisans and small shop-keepers. While there, I was on occasion surrounded by peddlers, including children, imploring me to buy trinkets and other small items.
The most common form of transportation, by far, is the bicycle. It is omnipresent, particularly in the cities. People ride bikes everywhere. During the times when people are going to or coming from work, it is often hard to pass because of the density of bike-riders. On the roads between the cities, every form of transportation known to the human race may be seen with the exception of the rickshaw. Since the rickshaw is symbolically associated with exploitation in pre-Communist days, it is now outlawed. The current range of road transportation varies from Mercedes to women pulling carts with ropes around their necks, as well as wagons pulled by donkeys or water buffalo.
There are few machines in the countryside. Tractors, other than one horse-power ones, are quite rare. The rural areas frequently offer a sight portrayed in many classic Chinese pictures, hundreds of peasants in the fields working by hand transplanting rice and doing other tasks. While there are many large rice fields, tiny plots of land are also common. It seems as if almost every inch of land that can possibly be farmed is, including cleared areas going up steep mountainsides. Among other crops, wheat is grown on these small mountainside plots. The contrast between these tiny hand-tilled fields and the vast, mechanized wheat farms of North Dakota or Saskatchewan is depressing.