I’m writing you today from Guangzhou, China as I return from a two week trip around the globe. It is my first time to circumnavigate the globe. Does that make me an astronaut? My trip has taken me from Omaha to Dallas to Budapest to Munich to Guangzhou and now today back to Omaha. This week I have been visiting factories in China and attending the 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. This is also where I come to dream big dreams and see how big and how small the world is. There is nothing like it on earth.
Here are my 20 good, bad, and ugly observations about China this trip:
#1 – If you use google mail you are out of luck in China –
China has outlawed Google and Facebook in China. That means if you try to access your gmail account over the internet or wifi you will get nothing. The good news is that you can use your mobile cell service to access Google and Facebook but it gets expensive if you don’t have a good international plan.
#2 – Prices are rising fast in China –
A 30 minute taxi ride 5 years ago was $7. Today that same ride is $20. Meal prices have gone up as well.
#3 – They have great cell phone service in China –
I traveled by car for hours into the deep rural parts of China to visit factories and always had four or five bars of service. Wow. That’s better than Nebraska.
#4 – China has some of the best hotels in the world –
Service is world class and prices are fantastic. There are literally hundreds of amazing 5 star hotels in China and here is the best part: the prices are often 75% 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.
#5 – 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.
#6 – eBikes are taking over China –
When I first visited China 20 years ago there where bicycles everywhere. Millions if not billions of bicycles. Today millions of those bicycles have been replaced with autos and the new electric bike (eBike). eBikes are taking over China as bikes that cost $2000 in the states are just $300- $600 here. Get ready for an explosion of eBikes in the U.S. in the coming months. I’m thinking of importing some of these. What do you think?
#7 – Solar energy is sweeping China –
The cost of solar panels has dropped so much that it is now cheaper to run your home with solar energy than buying it off the grid. The Canton Fair was filled with new solar manufacturers with great new products. Solar energy is about to transform our world. If I was a utility company I would be very worried about my future.
#8 – Police don’t have guns in China –
There are police almost on every corner in China. Amazingly almost none of them have guns. But boy do they like to run their flashing blue and red lights. They have them on their sleeves and of course their cars. Everywhere you go lights are flashing.
#9 – Chinese airports are the best in the world –
They are big and beautiful. Many of them have been built in the last 15 years. I remember my first time flying to Beijing 30 years ago and arriving at what appeared to be a metal shed as the terminal building.
#10 – Chinese love American brands –
American culture which includes music, movies, food and clothing is promoted heavily in major Chinese cites. KFC, McDonalds, and Starbucks are everywhere. Budweiser beer is at many restaurants along with Coca-Cola and even Pepsi and Snickers candy bars. Buick cars are everywhere. It feels like the Chinese think it is cool to be American. (Maybe our politicians should think the same).
#11 -Speaking English is a ticket to the good life in China –
Traveling in the major cities and a lot of people speak English as their second language, especially in hotels and tourist related industries. Chinese who learn to speak English have great opportunity to advance quickly up the job ladder. Speaking English is quickly becoming the language of the world.
#12 – There is a lot of money in China –
The highways are full of new Range Rovers, BMW’s, Mercedes, and Audi’s. Buicks are very popular as well. In the last five years I have seen a major shift of the cars on the highway. Gone are the days of run down cobbled together motorized rickshaws. Now a drive down the highway looks the same as driving in Nebraska with newer cars (but no pickup trucks).
#13 – Traffic laws in China are really just suggestions –
Traveling by car in China is an experience that will drive many Americans crazy. Chinese drivers will drive on sidewalks, pass on the right side shoulder, merge lanes without looking, do a U- turn in the middle of the road, drive down the wrong side of the road and many Chinese pay no attention to it at all other than a friendly toot on the horn. I almost get an ulcer riding in a car in China.
#14 – Hotel breakfast buffets in China are a work of art –
Wow the Chinese (And Europeans) really know how to make breakfast. Plus they are free with your hotel room.
#15 – Everyone here actually loves the U.S. Dollar –
Officially businesses do not accept any currency except the CNY but practically people love to have you pay them with the U.S. Dollar.
#16 – China’s national bird (construction crane) is hibernating
The Chinese economy is slowing down quite a bit. Five years ago I could look out my hotel window and see 1000’s of China’s national bird (construction crane). This week I counted fewer cranes out my hotel window than I could see in Lincoln, Nebraska.
#17 – It is easy to go on a diet in China –
A lot of the food does not make me hungry.
#18 – 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.
#19 – There are rainbows in China –
China has been an environmental disaster but is getting better fast. The sky was 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.
#20 – Finally, “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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