China’s creativity and its identity as a nation

Illustration by: Yi Mi Xiaoxin

“Seek knowledge even if you have to go as far as China” hadits moeslem.

The hadist above has been popular since I was in the third grade of elementary school.  My teacher told me, “There is the greatest country in the world where near from Indonesia and we do not have to go to another continent to learn because we are on the same continent, it is China.”
At once, I thought that it was true as I had some Chinese classmates and all of them were in the highest rank during elementary school. Additionally, in my neighborhood, we did believe that the excellent and genuine goods were made in China. Thus, I had been growing up with a curiosity that someday I should learn more from the country.

A decade later, I was a freshman in visual communication design. My teacher’s first advice I remembered the most was we must have learned how China could be held their culture and tradition as the biggest income of the country. They presented something through a unique design. Automatically, I shocked. Again, China looked just adorable that I had to fight on my semester assignments. It then was ended up with a joke that my friends and I used to banter. Only two things you can trust in this universe: The God and the Chinese.
I then sadly confess that my curiosity has been hidden for years. Thanks to my university life I finally got the answer. I then knew that the Chinese are not easily affected by other cultures. In China’s ancient, there was a concept called Tianxia—all things are fully provided under the sky. It looked like that it attracted China to did not have an interest in other countries. Furthermore, they are careful to keep their culture because they do not want to be absorbed by others. Also if they want to adopt foreign cultures, it must be adjusted to their culture. At once, when Buddhism came to China in Han’s dynasty, there was an Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, a man, and a powerful god. It was transformed into a woman god who fulls of love called Kwan Im then. This the early strict form how to they set up what they felt best for their nation.
‘Made in China’ as creative industries
Recently, Tianxia is implemented where the government has blocked many websites, such as—Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and instant messengers. This was happened several years ago in which a good friend of mine arrived in Beijing and tried to text me via Line, our favorite instant messenger, but she cannot. Again, she tried to use WhatsApp even emailed me via Gmail and she cannot get in contact with me. Not a long time, she realized that all of the applications were totally blocked by the government. At that time, they had to install WeChat which is China’s instant messenger. This was a salient example how strict China to empower their resources—I thought. Of course, it did not mean that China cannot maintain contact with others. It was an excellent chance of web developers, computer and software engineers, and all of the people who work on information and communication technology field in China because they had to make their own. The art of China, design and media industries were reflected in their policy, market activity, and grassroots participation. There was no doubt about adjusting the strict regulation because they were fine. Making the new one offered possibilities for their products to be used by other people around the world. Automatically, this was the one way for boosting economy affairs.
Before it happened, there were phases in my childhood where I spent it with toys who made in China. For the first, all of my friends played Beyblade, a brand name for a line of spinning top, for several months. Followed by Crush Gear and Tamiya, kinds of cars toy. Several years later, we moved to other toys such as Yu-Gi-Oh’s card, Digivice, and many fun toys. Although all these toys were inspired by Japan’s cartoon, it was made in China. One further interesting thing that in my little hometown, there are only two toy stores and all of them are Chinese. Then, I found meme on the internet that not only my friends and I enjoyed our childhood with the toys but also all of young Indonesians who were born in early 90’s. Due to the toys, we had a pleasant childhood but economically, we apparently improved their income only through these toys.
By the end of 2015, my friend visiting Quanzhou, one of Provinces in China, had been amazed by Live Show Wonderland theme park where many young generations of China conducting business. The place provided them a vast majority of facilities for making something like toys, film, photography, art, design product and all of the things concerning creative industries. It was established and financed by the government, run and marketed by youth then. After finishing the products, they will be able to export their products. Once, I thought it was an effective method in an effort to force the economy of the country since everyone had a chance to be an entrepreneur.
Having said that China is going to be a powerful country in the world changing United States (US)—no wonder if it happens. Moreover, based on the data of The International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2016, “China is the second largest economy by Gross World Product (GDP) while the US is the first. In 2030, China will be projected to be the first rank replacing the US rooted in their increase every single year as 1980’s until today.” What is more, United Nation Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has Creative City Network (CCN) program. There are seven areas of CCN: crafts and art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts, and music with 116 member cities from 54 countries.They are placing creativity and cultural industries at the core of their development plans at the local level and cooperate with the international level actively. Since 2008 until now, every two years, UNESCO is choosing a different city for all categories. Surprisingly, of all the cities in the world, China had eight cities as the nomination of CCN in three areas. It was Hangzhou (2012), Suzhou (2014), Jingdezhen (2014) for crafts and folk art. Shenzen (2008), Shanghai (2010), Beijing (2012) for design. And Chengdu (2010) and Shunde (2014) for gastronomy—almost every single period their cities won.
China is an outstanding example in today’s world that going to the market with a solution and holding onto remain relevant. Besides, it has been affecting the way of people’s life from religion to my mother’s cooking equipment; from toys to television; and from learning tools to school uniforms called chinaware, until my grandfather’s rheumatoid arthritis sandals. In addition, of all these, China seemingly serves it through creative industries—something that is happening lately and having significant economic potential. It remains me of another joke of my old friends, “Which part of your life that does not meet ‘Made in China’?”

This writing joined on Writing to China 2017 held by Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia.

Bulukumba, at second

Foto: Jumardan Muhammad

“, did you ever try to dive in the beach?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Shit! You should try it. That’s your hometown. Someday I’ll go there and kick your ass.”
Percakapan ini terjadi antara saya dan seorang bule Spanyol sekira lima bulan lalu di Teduh Hostel di daerah Kota Tua Jakarta. Ketika itu dia memperkenalkan diri sebagai seorang diving coach di negaranya. Dan saya memperkenalkan diri berasal dari daerah yang punya banyak pulau dengan pantai cantik. Saya menceritakan Makassar dan beberapa kabupaten di sekitarnya yang punya banyak pantai yang bagus untuk menyelam namun, semua yang saya paparkan adalah hanya ingatan tentang cerita dan foto-foto berlibur orang di media sosial. Saya yang tinggal di daerah yang punya banyak pariwisata laut tapi, jarang ke sana. Tahun lalu saya cuma sekali mengunjungi lautdan itu cuma karena terpaksa.

Hal ini juga terjadi pada Bulukumba. Sependek ingatan saya, pertama dan terakhir kali saya mengunjunginya sekira dua belas tahun lalu. Saya menghabiskan tujuh tahun di Makassar tapi tidak pernah sekalipun kesana, bahkan ketika sebuah pantai baru lagi tren di instagram dimana semua orang-orang berbondong-bondong kesana. Dari Makassar saya menempuh lima jam perjalanan dengan mobil. Adalah teman saya yang meminta untuk foto prewedding di sana akhir Maret lalu. Dan setelah dua belas tahun berlalu saya akhirnya kembali. Kami tiba pukul sebelas malam di pantai Bira. Apa saya temui adalah jalan menuju lokasi wisata ini penuh sesak oleh penginapan. Kami berkeliling mencari penginapan termurah dan tiba pada sebuah rumah kayu yang kemudian saya ingat sebagai tempat dimana saya menginap dua belas tahun lalu. Rumah itu tepat menghadap ke laut, masih kokoh, dan yang mengejutkannya adalah kamar yang disewakannya sudah punya air conditioner. Saya tidak habis pikir. Kami berhadapan dengan laut, anginnya berhembus siang malam ke dalam kamar, rumah kayu itu pun punya banyak lubang yang memungkinkan angin untuk masuk, lantas kenapa masih harus ada AC? Saya kemudian mengira-ngira bahwa si empunya mungkin sedang bersaing dengan dua resort mewah di kanan kirinya. Tanjung Bira yang saya kunjungi ketika masih di sekolah dasar kini sudah jauh berubah. Jumlah wisatawan yang datang baik domestik maupun mancanegara membuatnya harus menyesuaikan diri, terutama pada wisatawan kelas menengah ke atas.

Dari hasil rembuk, kami memutuskan untuk mengambil lokasi foto di daerah Apparalang di pagi hari. Jarak dari penginapan kurang dari lima belas menit, tapi kami menghabiskan sejam berputar-putar karena tidak tahu arah. Papan penunjuk yang ada kecil dan tidak jelas arahnya karena harus melewati rumah dan kebun warga.
“Sedang ada acara ya?”
“Tidak, habis demo.”
“Demo ke pemerintah karena tidak diperhatikan.”
Pemuda itu membantu saya menggeser bongkahan batu dan bambu yang menutupi jalan. Pasalnya, warga beberapa hari lalu menuntut perhatian pemerintah terhadap perbaikan jalan dengan menutup akses jalan ke Apparalang. Pantai dengan lanskap cantik ini memang masih satu laut dengan pantai Bira, yang membedakan hanya lingkungan di sekitarnya, namun tampaknya akses jalan tidak mendapat perhatian sementara wisatawan yang datang kesana cukup banyak. Jalan yang ditempuh masih belum permanen. Masih seperti jalan yang diterabas untuk memudahkan menuju Apparalang yang lokasinya memang agak terpencilpenemuan lokasi ini saya kira adalah hanya rasa penasaran manusia untuk mengeksplorasi alam sehingga mereka menemukan tempat ini.  
Saya menebak-nebak bahwa keindahan alam yang ada di kitaran Tanjung Bira memang tidak diperuntukkan untuk pariwisata. Atau memang belum siap untuk dipertontonkan?

Ketika kebingungan mencari jalan, saya yang singgah bertanya di kantor desa Ara ditunjukkan pantai lain selain Apparalang. Namanya pantai Mandala Ria. Seorang ibu memeringati saya untuk berhati-hati karena jalan menuju kesana berkelok dan curam. Infrastrukturnya lebih parah dibanding Apparalang, namun pantai ini juga tak kalah indahnya dibanding Apparalang dan Bira. Belum terjamah adalah kata yang pas untuk menggambarkan tempat ini. Ketika tiba di pantai ini, kami disambut oleh perahu pinisi yang tersohor itu. Ada enam perahu yang sedang dikerjakan tepat di bibir pantai Mandala Ria ketika tiba siang itu. Menurut seorang teman yang merupakan pegiat sastra dan budaya di Bulukumba, desa Ara memang adalah tempat para pembuat perahu pinisi. Jadi sebenarnya saya menang banyak bulan kemarin, di umur saya yang seperempat abad ini, selain melihat langsung pantai-pantai cantik di Bulukumbasaya juga dapat menyaksikan langsung pembuatan perahu pinisi untuk pertama kalinya. Sayangnya, saya tidak sempat memotret perahu-perahu itu karena terlalu asyik memerhatikan para pekerja sementara kami diburu oleh waktu yang terbatas.

Bira, Apparalang, dan Manda Ria adalah salah tiga dari pantai terbaik di Bulukumba. Jika diurut siapa yang paling dulu dieksplorasi, maka Bira adalah yang pertama, berlanjut Apparalang, dan terakhir Manda Ria. Namun, sebenarnya masih ada beberapa pantai di kitaran sana. Jika kamu berencana ke tempat-tempat ini, tolong, tolong jangan buang sampah sembarangan. Saya tidak sedang berusaha sok bijak, saya hanya takut kalau satu hari, di tahun yang kita tidak tahu, tempat-tempat ini tidak lagi cantik.