I’m writing you today from Guangzhou, China as I take a short 6 day business trip to attend the annual Canton Trade Fair in Guangzhou. The Canton Fair takes place twice a year and is the largest trade export fair in the world. Manufacturers from China and southeast Asia come here to display their goods to buyers from around the world. You can buy anything from umbrellas to golf carts to duct tape at this massive event. This is also were I come to dream big dreams and see how big and how small the world is. There is nothing like it on earth.
Staying at the Westin in Guangzhou feels like I could be in Kansas City –
I was having lunch in the hotel lobby and I realized that western business and culture is really taking over the world. Everyone in this hotel speaks English. The menu and food would be almost be the same as restaurants in many upscale hotels in the U.S.. The rooms are outstanding with amenities like Colgate tooth paste, Coca Cola, and Budweiser. Almost 50% of the TV channels are in English. If someone blindfolded you and delivered you to the hotel lobby you might think you were in Kansas City.
Here are some of my observations (the good,bad, and ugly) about China this trip:
China has many outstanding hotels and fantastic prices –
There are literally hundreds of amazing 5 star hotels in China. And here is the best part: the prices are often 50% of the cost of comparable 4 and 5 star hotels around the world. This is also a great place to use your hotel points. Great value for your points.
Uber has disappeared from China –
Last year Uber sold its China division to Didi. The change made it so your Uber app that you use in the states does not work in China. You can download the Uber China app but it is only in Mandarin and not English. The Uber China app also does not accept payment by U.S. Credit cards. The bottom line is that Uber has affectively disappeared in China. This is my biggest disappointment traveling to China this year.
Toilet revolution going on in China –
Over 55,000 new public restroom facilities will be built or renovated in the next few years in China. Basically the public facilities have been so bad in the past that you had to find a hotel or upscale restaurant to ameliorate yourself. It is ironic that something as basic as good restroom facilities is the litmus test if a country is tourist friendly.
There is a lot of money in China –
The highways are full of new Range Rovers, BMW’s, Mercedes, and Audi’s. Buick appears to be the most popular American brand. They sell more Rolls-Royces in China than in the United States.
Where have all the bicycles gone?-
The middle class is rising fast in China. On my first trip here 20 years ago all I saw was bicycles, ten years ago it was all mopeds and motor bikes. Now the roads are filled with cars, cars and more cars. Traffic jams are everywhere 24/7 – Too many cars, not enough roads.
China’s national bird (construction crane) is hibernating –
The Chinese economy is slowing down quite a bit. Three years ago I could look out my hotel window and see 1000’s of China’s national bird (construction crane). This week there are a lot fewer to see along the horizon.
China is leading in the coming technology wave of robots, drones, solar and nuclear energy –
I was amazed to see all the TV programs during my stay in China about all the new disruptive technology emerging in China and how fast it was changing their economic, social and political landscape.
Chinese middle class rises dramatically from real estate ownership –
There is now a bubbling middle class in China, thanks to run away real estate prices. In the past ten years homeowners have become millionaires as they rode the waive of real estate inflation. Most of this is tied to living in the big cities as Chinese living in rural areas have missed out on this massive creation of wealth.
China is being replaced by Vietnam and other Southeast Asia countries as the low cost place to manufacture things with manual labor –
Labor prices have gone up so much and so fast that low skilled labor is now cheaper in other countries. Many plants in China now deploy robots to make things.
Counterfeit currency is everywhere –
Even if you make change at an ATM you can’t always be sure that you don’t have bogus Chinese Yuan. Everyone here actually loves the U.S. Dollar – Officially businesses do not accept any currency except the Chinese RMB. Practically, however you will get an even bigger bang for your buck in many places by paying with your greenbacks.
There are no rainbows in China –
China has been an environmental disaster but is getting better fast. The sky is always a murky gray from the pollution in many large cities. Things are getting better, however. Five years ago I saw thousands of people wearing breathing masks. Now only a handful of people were seen wearing masks. The Chinese are planting billions and billions and billions of trees and other methods to try to aggressively address these environmental issues, however, this one item will forever keep China from leapfrogging the U.S. economically and especially in quality of life.
“There is no place like home” –
Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” said it best. The most obvious thing an American realizes when you travel to other counties is what a great country we have to live in. Despite all our warts and wrinkles the USA is still the best country on this planet to live. (in my humble opinion). I feel so lucky that I was born here and was given the opportunity to succeed or fail in this great land. There indeed is no place like home.
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