China my China

Those from London will know the cockney rhyming slang, China Plate – Mate! Interestingly a lot of Capetonians have adopted this word as well. So having just got back from China again, I feel I can now confidently call it – my China! It’s truly a fascinating place, with what I now consider to be a progressive culture and “can do” attitude which is allowing entrepreneurs to flourish. We started in Shanghai, arriving a few days earlier than the crew to check the place out. I quickly remembered how China is all about stats…ten years ago there were two underground lines in Shanghai, now there are twelve! Since the Olympics in 2004, things have changed a lot, so its not too difficult to get around but you do still feel very lost sometimes (see left!). So we bundled ourselves around Shanghai, visited some household names: Kimberley Clark, Citibank and Pfizer to name a few, all of which were fascinating for different reasons. The advice with regards to Chinese forecasts and figures was to give or take a number the size of Germany! The scale of the place and the speed of growth is just phenomenal. Speaking of speed we jumped on the bullet train after a week to head up to Beijing at a reasonable 304km/h; Eurostar eat your heart out! Managed to picture the top speed at quite an auspicious time as well! Beijing is older and has more history but having been here before it didn’t have the novelty of Shanghai, nor the young cosmopolitan feel. Nevertheless all good,  we dropped into PWC, which was a bit dry as you’d expect, but we did get to meet Dominic Johnson-Hill of Plastered 8 fame, and got filmed for Chinese National Television during the privilege. The only part of me you’ll see is my hand and handwriting around 6:57 I’m afraid, but it was great to meet a British entrepreneur and learn from his experiences. After Beijing we trotted off to Xian to meet the terracotta warriors, a truly magnificent feat and sight to behold. Imagine discovering something like this…. I wonder if any uber-rich oligarch will attempt a legacy as outlandish? So what were the “take homes”? China is huge, even outside the Tier 1 cities (mostly along the east coast) you get rows upon rows of enormous apartment blocks. Strangely though, unlike India, the streets didn’t feel particularly packed out and things do seem to work! There is no longer an overtly oppressive feeling but rather a proud optimistic air about the place, with businesses thriving. Even the street art has got a somewhat Banksy feel to it! I’m not sure I could live in Beijing, if forced to I could manage Shanghai though. Perhaps we can set up an office there or start some sort of business, that would be fun, but I’ll be sure to avoid the local pharmacies; some fake paracetamol nearly gave me kidney failure for the first few days, which wasn’t fun! I’m keen to go back and delve some more soon, it’s quite refreshing to see things getting done without quite so much red tape (so to speak!) Thank you China my China!