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Note: I am still in New Jersey, which is why there is a string of comparative travel posts. At first glance, it might be insane to compare Changzhou with Asbury Park.
One is a 4 million plus industrial metropolitan center in China, and they other really is a city in name only on the Jersey Shore. There are many substantial and superficial differences. Asbury is next to an ocean, and Changzhou is along the Yangtze River. Monmouth County and most of New Jersey in general does not have air problems, and there are hardly any factories around here. People hardly treat Changzhou as a tourist destination, and beach goers flock to Asbury Park every summer.
If you look deeper, though, there is one important similarity. In Changzhou, something new is always being built and is under construction, and Asbury Park often feels the same way. Both when I lived here and now when I return every summer to see family, there also seems to be new condos under construction. A lot of them look the same. In Changzhou, there is always those brown cookie cutter residential high rises being thrown up.
Asbury Park has been under redevelopment for years. It used to be a swanky destination for the wealthy 80 or so years ago. Then, it slowly fell into disrepair. Race riots broke out in , and much of the town burned. From there, the place descended into severe urban blight that it almost never recovered from. In the s and s, the whole town looked like a shooting locations for a post apocalyptic science fiction movie.
Crime and drugs were also rampant. Often, people drove through Asbury with locked doors. When I moved to this place in , walking out the door meant you possibly might have to contend with drug dealers and prostitutes. I once met a woman who fit both descriptions. However, people other than myself and my wife at the time were trickling in. The LGBT community, like it has in other parts of America, had moved in where renovating the town one house at a time.