Blog : China – it’s unreal!

Keith Adams

I’ve yet to catch up with the Land Rover Journey of Discovery, and we’re still a flight away from meeting up. After an overnighter to Hong Kong, followed by an internal flight to Xi’an, there’s still some distance to cover before I get my hands on the millionth Discovery off the line.

My impressions of China so far are that it’s pretty full on! My guide book described Xi’an as being unremarkable, but I can tell you this is far from the case. It’s huge, easily as big as London, and you can see that it’s being built up at a phenomenal rate. I passed two nuclear power stations between the airport and the city, and although there are plenty of small ramshackle villages (neatly shielded from the motorway by foliage), once you get into the city limits, it’s clear this is something else entirely. I lost count of the number of groups of high-rise flats lining the ultra-wide boulevards that we drove in on. But there’s lots. And lots. And many more are being built.

The main city is walled-in, and is also a place of contrasts. On one hand, there’s more high-end designer outlets than you can shake a stick at. And on the other, there’s a great number of charming little back streets, selling fake goods and deep-fried chicken’s feet. It’s a vibrant place – desaturated in colour, and smoggy beyond belief – and somewhere for the young. And I love it.

The car mix is definitely alien to us Europeans. The average age in the city is very young – and there’s only been a couple of MG/Roewes so far, a tatty MG3, and a a Roewe 350 wearing stick on black-glass. If you like the obscure, it’s here – Citroen ZX saloons, long-wheelbase Audi A6s, Japanese, Korean, and lots of domestic Chinese. Familiar, it ain’t.

Looking forward to hitting the road later!

Oh and just one thing… it seems impossible to get on to Facebook and Twitter here – as does it being able to upload images!

Keith Adams


  1. What, no Lubao CA6400s (aka Maestros) or MG 3 SWs (aka Rover Streetwise)?

    @ Will M:

    There are a number of Chinese manufacturers who also do ‘knock-off’ copies of the current Rolls Royce Phantom and even the BMW X5.

  2. @David 3500

    Most infamous knockoff I recall was the Chery QQ – a Matiz. GM took them to court and proved that the doors were interchangable.

  3. “Most infamous knockoff I recall was the Chery QQ – a Matiz.”

    Why bother? I mean if you’re going to clone a car design, why on earth clone a Matiz?

  4. Cheap, small, economical, basic.
    Plus copying someone else means you save on development costs (cf. CityRover, though that was under licence not a copy)

  5. Keith, you wont get on FacePlant, or the other one in China.

    For some strange reason the ‘Great Firewall of China’ isnt very keen on either (I cant imagine for the life of me why…) and they are usually blocked at the backhaul level.

    There are apparently ways of getting around it, but as a visitor over there I wouldnt suggest you try it. You might end up living, as Terry Pratchett would put it, in Interesting Times…*

    *Apparently there’s this thing they do with steel wire and a cheese grater…

    @ Various: I have to agree with the questionable sanity of making a knock off of a Daewoo Matiz. Still it could have been worse, it could have been the original Fiat Panda!

  6. Imagine if there was a factory over here in the uk making knock off european cars, there would be hell to play. I would hate to think how much the fine would be, the jail sentence they would probably throw away the key…

  7. Enjoy it Keith – sadly I’ve not visited mainland China (yet) but I have been to Taiwan on many occasions, with a past job. The cities are bizarre, with an odd contrast between westernised shopping malls, American global brands, back-street food stalls, bizarre shops selling, well, seemingly nothing, where men of a certain age hang out all evening, and Bladerunner! You can go from a 70-floor steel and glass skyscraper to a Buddhist shrine, to a shanty in one block. The food – excellent, once you lose your visions of wall-to-wall sweet and sour, battered prawns and chicken curry served with fluffy rice(the food is nothing like the Chinese/Cantonese stuff we get served up here). If you like fish & seafood, or even better dim sum, you’re onto a winner! Can’t vouch for Chinese cars, but when I was in Taiwan, favourites were Nissan March saloons, Mk1 Fiat Puntos and Mazdas badged as Fords. Looking forward to hearing more about your travels. Reminds me I must start saving to go back to that part of the world!

  8. “I have to agree with the questionable sanity of making a knock off of a Daewoo Matiz. Still it could have been worse, it could have been the original Fiat Panda!”

    Exactly there are plenty of much better small cheap and basic cars to clone. Still if they had cloned the original Panda it wouldn’t have been any more rot prone, than the original, that wasn’t possible.

  9. My favorite (bad) Chinese car name of all time is the Land Wind.
    It is my dream to break wind in a Land Wind.

  10. Also: let us don’t forget the classic Geely Beauty Leopard. Another great Chinese car name…I laugh so hard at that one, it caused win breakage.

  11. The China Car Times website has details of the MG SUV codenamed ICON, similar to the Nissan Juke with front and rear retro styling similar to the original MGB. Unexpected and interesting.

  12. The Chinese have the sense to control facebook & twitter – quite right in my opinion, its a bloody menace!

  13. It’s funny how the Chinese don’t seem to mind driving around in cars which are rip off designs of expensive Euro metal. I can’t imagine it here!

    Maybe it’s because capitalism hasn’t convinced buyers that they must have the latest ‘trends’ so they’re happy with copies?

    Good on ’em

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