It isn’t even the China I grew up learning about. China is a country with a more than 5,000 year old history. Americans (and Westerners in general) older than 30 grew up with the idea of ‘Red China’. The advancing Communist menace was to be feared and defenders of Democracy like Joe McCarthy in the 1950’s did all they could to protect the American way of life.
I’ve only been in Shanghai for 48 hours and this shiny, modern city does not give any outward appearance of having any relation to the China we were taught to fear. There’s so much energy here in Shanghai and in much of Asia that I find infectious and exhilarating. The days are longer and the action is non-stop.
This morning we met at 6:50 AM to head over to crash the Shanghai American Chamber of Commerce breakfast featuring California Governor Schwarzenegger who is in Shanghai for a week-long trade mission promoting green energy initiatives and partnerships with China for California. The business cards were being passed fast and furious.
By the time we returned to the hotel by taxi in the pouring rain we had barely enough time to regroup and head over to an early lunch meeting. We then went to three more afternoon meetings, an early dinner, now to be followed by a 9:30PM meeting for drinks. All that in one day and tomorrow two meetings then we head on a plane for Beijing for and afternoon and then dinner meeting. This is Asia folks and I guarantee that you are going to be tired if you stop for even fifteen minutes.
My not speaking Mandarin has already become frustrating. While English is spoken in the big hotels and restaurants, taxicab drivers and shopkeepers can barely speak English. When you get in a taxi you have to have the exact address and place written down in Mandarin and then you hope the taxi driver know where he is going. Google maps helps in letting you know where you are at a moment. It even offers directions to the place you are going but without speaking the language I’m hardly any use to the driver anyway.
Even after only two days it is obvious that China is where it’s at. The notion that this is the Chinese century is more evident to me now than ever before. I am very interested in what I will think of Beijing as I have heard mixed reviews – pollution galore but nice people (Shanghaiese have a reputation of being a bit snooty).
After we return from Beijing we have a few meetings in Shanghai Thursday morning and then head out that afternoon to Wuxi (a 2 hour train ride) for a reception and then we head back that night.
A week in China seems like a month in most other places.
You could do it right?