Daqing's oil fields is China's largest and the world's 8th most productive. Founded in 1959, this city has risen from the wild wastes in the windswept plains of Heilongjiang to become China's 8th richest city on per capita basis. Like Houston, America's oil capital, Daqing is a city with wide open motorways and symbols of oil wealth. Everywhere in this city, one sees "donkey" oil derricks - even next to downtown shopping malls.
Daqing was once a symbol of Mao's communist heroism and raised to the altar by Mao's supreme directive "In Industry, Learn from Daqing". Today, shopping malls and luxury car showrooms are testimony to Daqing's status as an oil boom town, pursued by closeted capitalist China's love affair with money and hunger for fossil fuel.
I arrived in a Daqing drenched by heavy rain. Time was in short supply and I hopped onto a taxi to the Memorial Museum of Ironman Wang, the communist hero of Daqing. The cab sped across the city on its broad motorways. The city, obviously planned by worshippers of America's automobile economy (and partly because the HLJ province has more space than people), has built one spread across an enormous area. Buildings are far apart with lots of empty space. This is unlike elsewhere in China where cities are crowded with pedestrians and traffic, and space is at a premium.
Wang Zhixi, an oilman and pioneer of the Daqing oilfields, was seen as a superman and model and miracle worker who strived hard to enable China achieve oil sufficiency. He was selfless and relentless in drilling oil wells, and was proclaimed as the ideal communist man and nicknamed "Ironman Wang". His legendary deeds had included (if you believe them all) using his own body to stem a damaged blowout (so as to prevent further wastage) and jumping into a concrete mixer to stir the concrete as certain ingredients were lacking. "I would be willing to sacrifice 20 years of my life for Daqing's oilfields", he proclaimed.
When Wang died an early death in 1970, he was proclaimed a communist martyr and saint. A modest museum was built soon after for young communist pilgrimages, but in 2003, flushed with oil revenues at rising prices, the Daqing Oil Corporation sponsored millions to build a gigantic museum complex complete with statues, paintings, diorama and impressive multi-media displays. The grandeur of the complex is mind-boggling - definitely more magnificent than many national museums of Third World countries. This is a must-go for all keen on communist history and propaganda art. A pity no photos are allowed within this museum and I could only take photos outside the complex.
Surrounding the complex are many shopping malls, car showrooms, dodgy Chinese saunas aka houses of sin, night clubs and other temples of capitalism. I wonder what would Wang say if he was alive. Would a man like Wang arise in the China of today? Would he be corrupted by the temptations of the money-minded China of this day? Or was he a product of a more heroic age?