Sunday, September 6, 2009

China Musings, Day One (28 August)

Sunday the 30th kicks off the US-China Green Energy Council’s trade delegation to China. Over ten days, eight of us will visit Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xi’an; eight other USGEC members will join for selected portions of the trip. As one of only two American-born delegates, this should make for a fantastic exploratory experience, as we examine investment, operational, and partnership opportunities with dozens of Chinese organizations and local governments; we’ll also be attending a high-profile green energy trade show in Chengdu, which I expect to be an eye-opener. I’ve never done a trip travelogue before, but I’ve decided to do one here to both capture my own thoughts on my first experience as part of a foreign trade delegation, as well as to share business- and market-related thoughts on a number of Chinese cities that are new to me.

My colleague Anton Wahlman and I decided to come in a day early, in an attempt to get an early start on adapting to the time change. This is Anton’s first trip to China; I’ve been here a half-dozen times, but China never gets old for me. When we arrived, we were met at the airport by an American friend of Anton’s who now lives in Shanghai; rather than fighting Friday night rush hour traffic, we hopped on the magnetic levitation train from the airport to get into town. Although I’ve taken a ton of airport trains, this was my first time on the Shanghai maglev. As totally freakin’ cool as it was, I felt a little bit like getting off the Shinkansen at Shin-Osaka--any thoughts about actually arriving in the center of town soon disappear when you realize that you still have a decent drive or subway ride ahead of you. Ugh. Into traffic we dove; an hour-plus later, we finally reached the hotel.

After showering to de-grime, we headed over to Din Tai Fung in Xin Tian Di for xiao long bao. Sure, it’s formulaic, but starting a trip to Shanghai with the local speciality can’t be beat. After dinner, we sat down at an outdoor cafe to enjoy a nightcap. While the vibe in Xin Tian Di is fantastic, I must admit that it’s a little disconcerting to see so many Westerners out and about. Shanghai is a tremendously cosmopolitan city, but the high percentage of non-Asians made me feel like I was in Hong Kong or Singapore, not on the Chinese mainland--a tradeoff I’m certain I’d relish if I were living in Shanghai, but a little disconcerting nonetheless. Well after midnight, we called it an evening, as we were looking forward to playing tourists on our one full day to ourselves.

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