China Diary:
Meeting Folks


[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]


Oct. 5: Full Moon – At 8:30 a.m. I let in three maids hauling a refrigerator from another (presumably vacant) unit to the delight of a bemused foreign expert. For dinner, I head to my favorite neighborhood bar to down a large bottle of Bud and a chicken steak sandwich with fries. The chef brings out a small plate of special nuts, along with a couple of shot glasses of maotai. He animatedly explains the story of Mid-Autumn Festival, about how some guy found a tonic that would give him immortality but his wife drank it instead, then fled to the moon with a pet rabbit in her arms where she remains until this day. So, he takes me outside to gaze at the lady in the moon. At home, Renny invites us residents to his fifth floor apartment for moon cakes, drinks, and a view.

Oct. 7: Haining – I postpone this morning’s class until Friday. One of Renny’s businessman acquaintances, Allen, asked him to invite some foreign experts to the Haining. Renny, A.J., Kathleen, and I take a cab to the International Trade Center where guests are to rendezvous at 9:00 a.m. and take a mini-bus to Haining, which happens to be on the way to Hangzhou where we were exactly one week ago. The trip is organized by the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce but the Haining government is paying all expenses for two days for government representatives, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and investors from fourteen countries and areas. On the bus, I meet Harry and other Shanghai officials, Akif, a Consul General newly-stationed in Shanghai, and Axel, a consultant from Germany. We receive gifts upon our arrival, including a commemorative plaque. After a banquet for lunch, we take the bus to the Investment and Trade Promotion Seminar and the few of us meet the local dignitaries. Akif, the diplomat, represents us and thanks them for their hospitality. I get a front-row seat facing the head table lined with local officials. Allen translates. There are awards, speeches, a signing ceremony, and a multi-media presentation. Afterward, there is a banquet (again). I sit at a table with Bob, Lily, and Harry. Bob works at Hyundai’s Shanghai Office and will stay in Haining an extra day to attend the local leather fair to purchase automobile seat covers. Lily is the general manager for an American medical apparatus joint venture and she agrees to let me write a business case on her company, and will attend the MBA session when we discuss it. Harry agrees to a large-scale survey of the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce members. (Oh, yeah, by the way, my new exotic delicacy today is turtle soup.)

Oct. 8: Tidal Bore – Haining is known for its leather, so after breakfast I take a pedi-cab to a local mall packed with leather and fur stores. No animal rights activists in sight. Back at the hotel, we all receive a red VIP badge and hop on a bus that takes us to the beach to watch the "tidal bore" with an estimated 300,000 other locals and visitors. But first there is a banquet (again) for lunch that includes cooked chicks (yup, hatchlings) that taste a bit like liver, and large turtle chunks. The Tidal Bore is an "eighth wonder of the world" (well, actually there is also one in the Amazon). This natural phenomenon occurs when the full moon drags the East China Sea to form a huge tidal wave that pushes up the river at 5-7 meters per second and reaching heights over 3 meters. This time it is not so high, but still stretches the 100 kilometers across the wide mouth of the Qiantang River at the notch of Hangzhou Bay and rolls upstream to where we have front row seats at Yanguan where it shrinks to 3 kilometers across. In front of me is Shigeo, the general manager for the Matsushita joint venture in Shanghai. He invites me to lunch Sunday, and I gladly accept. We begin the 125 kilometer trip back to Shanghai and arrive about four hours later.

Oct. 10: Other University Connections – I meet John and his assistant for lunch at a local Korean restaurant. He is an expatriate working as a media consultant and Web strategist who also teaches marketing, management, and mass media communications at Shanghai University of Science & Technology. He is also a history buff who points out the Chinese were early sailing innovators. I find this somewhat intriguing because I think of China as land-locking itself with its Great Wall to keep the barbarians out. On the other hand, Western civilization advanced because of sea-going exploration. John also points out that the neighborhood was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, and the People’s Liberation Army still owns or controls much of the area. John informs me of the many things happening in town and invites me to participate; I agree. That evening, Kathleen invites Bob and Susan (who were on the same plane as me going into Beijing) over for some wine and cheese. They are at Shanghai International Studies University and we compare our experiences. For dinner, we walk to the Red Wall Restaurant. After, I pick up some mini-speakers for my laptop’s CD player and my short-wave radio.

Oct. 11: Eastern Diversity – I write out checks for some bills to mail on my way to Matsushita where I will meet Shigeo for lunch. His building is located in Pu Dong ("East of the River"), across from the Bund. Shanghai sits in the Yangtze River delta, which is sediment dumped over millions of years. A few years ago this was mostly rice paddies. Deng Xiaoping designated it as China’s future financial, economic, and commercial center, and it is considered the "dragon head" of a chain of open cities extending up the Yangtze River Valley. Now, this "new city" claims one-fifth of the world’s building cranes. It houses the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the tallest structure in Asia. Going up is a bank headquarters building which will be the tallest in the world. Unfortunately, Pu Dong also has about a thirty percent occupancy rate. Seems the government encouraged joint ventures to build it up by offering land as their stake, with the foreign investor providing everything else as their stake. Zero land cost seems economically attractive, even if the lease is for a fixed period of time. Turns out Sunday is a Japanese work day, and Shigeo greets me in his dark suit and white shirt; I am in my dark jeans and colored shirt with my trusty Eastpak slung over one shoulder. Two others join us, and I get a tour of his real estate operation. We do lunch in the Japanese restaurant downstairs by beginning with some boiled tuna chunks and sake. The main course is several plates of thinly-sliced Kobe beef with assorted veggies simmering in a broth-filled pot on our table. More sake. We chat, eat, and drink for a couple of hours, discussing everything from business to skiing the bumps and MBA programs. After, we go to Shigeo’s apartment and discuss his business some more. He is clearly worried about the economic slowdown. It begins to drizzle as I leave to take a taxi to the ferry docks. Back on the Bund, I begin walking down Renmin (People’s) Street toward the Ming Dynasty era Yu Yuan (Scholar’s Garden), one of Shanghai’s main attractions. The drizzle becomes a torrent and my umbrella does little good. I find some shelter and wait it out. After a while, I head for the Huxingting Teahouse at the gardens, Shanghai’s oldest that opened in 1856. I sip tea beside several French folks until the rain lets up. (It was here where anti-imperialist "Little Sword Society" planned their uprising against the French colonialists in 1853 during the Taiping Uprising.) I then tour the garden, which dates to 1559 and remains one of the few old sights left in the city. I wander around the winding walkways, bridges, artificial mountains and lakes, carp-filled ponds, dragon-lined walls, and pavilions, then take the bus home. It seems that in the rain, my water-resistant backpack did not even put up a fight and my letters are as soaked as I am.


[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.