I’m writing you today from Guangzhou, China as I am on my last day of 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 at this massive event. 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.
Staying at the Westin in Guangzhou feels like I could be in Kansas City –
Yesterday 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 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 were 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:
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.
The Chinese economy is slowing down a little –
Last year I could look out my hotel window and see 1000’s of China’s national birds (construction crane). This week there were 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. CLICK HERE to take a peek at this video of the coolest new drone I found in China.
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 employ robots to make things.
Disneyland is coming to China –
There is a lot of excitement that in just a few months the first Disney park in mainland China will open in Shanghai in June. They are expecting over 15 million Chinese will visit the park each year. This is another big sign of the rising middle class in China who now have enough spending money to buy a $10 cheeseburger at a Disney park.
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.
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.
China is an environmental disaster but getting better fast –
The sky is always a murky gray from the pollution. Things are getting better, however. Three years ago I saw thousands of people wearing breathing masks. Yesterday only two people were wearing masks. The Chinese are planting billions and billions of trees and other methods to try to aggressively address these issues, however. This one item will forever keep China from leapfrogging the U.S. economically and especially in quality of life.
Using Uber in China is easy and fast –
I love using Uber, and arriving in Guangzhou at the airport was a perfect reason why. I had to choose taking a cab or taking Uber. I had forgotten to get any Chinese Yuan yet so the decision was easy as Uber simply charges the ride to your credit card on file and emails you a copy of the bill. I simply got out my phone and pushed the Uber button. The app said my driver would pick me up in 7 minutes. I looked at the taxi line which was 100 people long and knew I had made the right decision. Another big reason to use Uber in a foreign country is that most taxi drivers do not speak English and when using Uber you can put in your destination on the app and it converts that for the driver’s understanding.
There is no place like home –
Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” said it best. The most obvious thing any American realizes when you travel to other countries 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. (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.