"Man must conquer nature" - Mao Zedong.
When I first went to China in 2007 part of me was curious as to what wildlife I might encounter, it didn’t take long to find out ‘not much’.
China’s fast paced urbanisation has seen almost 500 million rural Chinese people move into cities over the last 35 years, by 2025 China wants to have 70% of the population, roughly 900 million people, in city living.
Mao Zedongs teachings of ‘Man must conquer nature’ and the Great Leap Forward in the 1950’s an assault on the natural world in China which hasn’t really stopped. Maoist thought suggested that the human race were fundamentally distinct from the natural world, and as such humans should mobilise to overcome the obstacles that nature places in their way.
I found Zoo’s to be a metaphor for the country’s relationship with the natural world. Here the visitor is in control and the animals are seen as a form of entertainment than something from a world beyond the city. Having visited dozens of them through the country, like China’s cities, they share some sort of blueprint and are much the same. A brown bear pit, usually littered with plastic bottles and licked out food wrappers, a monkey ‘mountain’ (a concrete structure made to look like natural rock) and if it’s a zoo worth visiting then the full glass enclosure of the Giant Panda – always the best accommodation in the zoo. And if the animals are not photogenic enough then rest assured there will be fibre glass and stone animal replicas in which to take your picture with.