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From the series Cities of China

I had the privilege of calling Changchun my Chinese home town for 8 years, from 1990 to 1998. I studied Chinese at Northeast Normal University and then directed a program there for foreigners learning Chinese. Back then it was a city of broad, tree-line boulevards with very few cars; we biked everywhere, even in the dead of winter (which is very much like a Minnesota winter). 

In 1990, the city retained many of the old neighborhoods that had been built by the Japanese when they occupied the city during World War II. In fact, the program that I was a part of was in a house that had formerly been the home of a Japanese general. Little development had taken place in the city following the political upheavals of the 1950s and 1960s; it just felt like a city that was worn out. 

One of the fascinating things about living in Changchun during the 1990s was watching the turbo-charged development that took place beginning in 1992. After suspending nearly all economic reforms in the summer of 1989, by 1992, the Party was ready to resume its opening and reform policies. This intention was announced to the country when Deng Xiaoping toured Guangzhou in January 1992 and said “this is good.” I was in Changchun that day, and remember that quite literally things began to change the next day. Entire blocks of buildings, both business and residential, were bulldozed to make way for office and apartment towers. For a year the city had the feel of London during the Blitz!

By the time I moved away from Changchun in 1998, the city had undergone an amazing transformation. As the train pulled away from the station, I couldn’t help wonder what the city would look like twenty years hence. Well, we are now past twenty years hence and when I look at pictures and videos from the city, there is little I recognize. 

This video introduction to Changchun was produced by China Partnership. It’s a great overview of the city, and makes me very “homesick!”

Please visit China Partnership to learn more about the city, including ways you can pray.

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Image credit: Changchun Railway Station, 1991, by Joann Pittman
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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