China Diary:
Business Week


[Leaving Home] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Settling in Shanghai] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Getting to Work] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Becoming Routine] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Western Contacts] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) ["National Day" Trip] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Meeting Folks] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Plenty to Eat] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Downtown] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [South by Southwest] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Socializing] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Dance Fever] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Exchanges] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Business Week] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [North by Northeast] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Computer Crash] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [The Good and the Bad] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Wrapping Up]


Nov. 23: Meal Host – I take Fenwick to lunch with his friend, Zhen, who will be taking me to Wenzhou later this week. For dinner, I invite Shigeo (the general manager for the Matsushita joint venture), a couple of his co-workers, and Yoshi to go to the Blue Joy. They bring bags of bottles and snacks which we take to my place afterward, and we engage in a language mosaic. By the time they leave, the front gate is locked.

Nov. 25: American Chamber of Commerce – I head downtown to visit Rui, the Deputy Director of the local think tank I met a few weeks ago at Fudan. We compare our views of trade, management education, and politics. I then go to the fashionable Portman Hotel to pick up a plane ticket for my two-week return visit to New York State on New Year’s Eve. With some time to kill, I browse through some open markets, pick up a bag of strawberries, and wind up in a tea shop on the other side of town where I indulge in the strawberries with my rum and milk tea. By evening, I wander to the Turkish Consulate to meet Akif and his driver takes us to Sasha’s for an AmCham mixer and buffet where we have a few drinks, hot dogs, ribs, and chicken. Many business cards are exchanged here. After, I stop in the Cotton Club for some jazz and chat with the manager. By the time I get home, the front gate is locked.

Nov. 26: Thanksgiving – Having run out of traveler’s checks and with several expensive trips scheduled, I take the bus to the Bank of China on the Bund where I can cash a personal check with my American Express card. The bank is closed for lunch so I stroll the Bund, being harassed by various hustlers. Katy tags along and we strike up a conversation that lasts through the lunch I buy for both of us. Seems she is trying to make some money by offering guided tours to foreigners, so I point out some sites to her. Turns out she’s the youngest of eight children (four boys and four girls). Her grandfather was successful enough as a businessman to purchase a one-bedroom place in Old Shanghai, but her father squandered it. Mao sent her parents to the countryside where she was born, later returning to Shanghai for school. She was working for a while without a residence permit, but recently lost her job. Seems that poverty amid prosperity is common in Shanghai. When her father passed away, he could bequeath his job and home to one child (obviously a son), but her brother moved in with his in-laws so Katy got to live in the one-bedroom. Now that her brother doesn’t get along with his in-laws Katy must move out. So, on Thanksgiving day I listen to her story of being out of work and soon out of home. After lunch I pick up my money at the bank and take the bus home for dinner in a private room at our favorite local restaurant. Seven of us at the residence, as well as three friends from around town, begin with a reception at Kathleen’s. A.J. makes some great stuffing she brings for us. At the restaurant, the only turkey we get is wings and we are the stuffed ones. The main course is more Peking duck (ya) than we can finish, and there are about four types of tofu, a whole fish, a large assortment of cooked vegetables, drinks, rice, potato, and soup. No pumpkin or apple pies, but no one complains.

Nov. 27: Wenzhou – I’m up before 5 so I can meet Zhen. There is no hot water but I shave and shower anyway, and by 5:20 I hop the front gate and am standing in the morning drizzle waiting for him to pick me up in the taxi. It is no easy task getting to this boom town since flights are booked solid. Zhen manages a steep discount. Upon arrival, we are met by a government official, Hu, and Bonnie, who will act as interpreter. This coastal city is about as isolated as it can get, both geographically and politically. It was a foreign treaty port in the 1870’s, and initially resorted to smuggling and counterfeiting goods. It was left to fend for itself when its success resulted in the residents becoming too free spirits for Beijing. With the opening up of China it developed its unique brand of family enterprises which is now a model of "Chinese Capitalism." Hoping to write a case and administer a survey at some later time, we tour several factories and meet many businessmen. We begin with a large state-owned enterprise which is a bureaucratic conglomerate that does not understand markets. The building is classical Chinese ornate, and the conference room is a showcase of large traditional scenes carved from jade. They treat us to a lavish banquet. After lunch we visit a pharmaceutical company, which is a medium-sized state-owned enterprise struggling to make some money. Their facilities are spartan. Bonnie, Hu, Zhen, and I eat dinner at perhaps the city’s best restaurant, then I have a tour of the town. Later, they drop me off a hotel on the top of a mountain overlooking the city, which has several types of entertainment but few participants.

Nov. 28: Free Enterprise – The next morning, we cross the longest bridge in China and drive one hour into the county to visit the Chint Group, the largest and perhaps most successful private business in the area. There are many visitors in the lobby and reception area, and they often receive Western scholars. We go to a modern and comfortable conference room where several managers speak with us, including Luther who acts as interpreter. They take pictures of us and host a lavish banquet where after several mao-tais I reprise "Country Roads" with interpreters Bonnie and Luther backing me up. After lunch, Zhen, Hu, Bonnie, and I drive another hour to the stunning Yandang Mountains which few Westerners bother to see. It is as well known to Chinese as their so-called five famous mountains. We walk to Da Long ("Big Dragon") Waterfall, the highest in China at 200 meters. After dark, they take me to another spot known for its mountain silhouettes forming various shapes. (I must confess the Chinese have wonderful imaginations and are masters of myth-making.) After dinner, Hu and Bonnie drive us back an hour and a half to Wenzhou, where Zhen and I take a one-hour taxi ride to his home town of Ruian. This must be a very prosperous and well-groomed town because it has wall-to-wall barber shops with their ubiquitous red poles in front. Other common business establishments include massage parlors, karaoke clubs, and tea rooms. It must also be a very safe and friendly town because many young, attractive, smiling women stroll the streets alone. We find what must be the only pub where a couple of guys can get some cheap beers without being hustled.

Nov. 29: Engagement Party – Many of Zhen’s relatives are in the same hotel I checked in because his sister is getting engaged today. As I walk to lunch I am harassed by beggars and wonder again about all this poverty amidst prosperity. In the afternoon, I go to his Zhen’s apartment where I pick up the guitar and strum (OK, you guessed it, "Country Roads"). Zhen has four female cousins ranging in age from twelve to sixteen, and they just want to speak English. This continues to the restaurant where his family hosts a banquet that overflows into adjacent rooms. After many maotais we go back to his family’s apartment where I interview his father, who owns a local medium-sized plant. This time, his sister’s friend Tracy acts as interpreter. A recent English major from Hangzhou University, she teaches English at Wenzhou Medical College. It begins to rain hard, so around midnight his father drives Tracy home, then takes me to my hotel. He and Zhen will pick me up again at 7:00 a.m. for the hour-long ride to the airport tomorrow morning.


[Leaving Home] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Settling in Shanghai] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Getting to Work] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Becoming Routine] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Western Contacts] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) ["National Day" Trip] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Meeting Folks] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Plenty to Eat] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Downtown] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [South by Southwest] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Socializing] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Dance Fever] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Exchanges] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Business Week] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [North by Northeast] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Computer Crash] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [The Good and the Bad] arrow.jpg (877 bytes) [Wrapping Up]

Rainbow

Copyright 1998 Paul Miesing. All rights reserved. Please do not use without permission unless in the People’s Republic of China which does not enforce intellectual property rights. Revised on January 17, 2001.