I returned late last night from my trip to Shanghai (China, for those of you unfamiliar with the city of 20 million +). It was more than a year since my last visit and things haven’t changed all that much. Of course, I stayed at my favorite Shanghai Hotel, which I highly recommend.
However, I did notice a few things that were different.
The economy: One of the first things people in Shanghai asked me was about the economy in the U.S. and if we were recovering. This is not surprising given what has happened in the past 18 months. The economy (at least the tech side) has been significantly impacted by the global downturn. There are many great tech professionals not working, just like here in the U.S., but without having the actual numbers, it felt like their situation was probably worse than it is here. So, if you are looking to start up a technology team in China, now is probably a good time to find great talent.
I did spend a few hours gift buying and wondering around some of the tourist areas. Maybe it was the time of year, but it felt like there were less people crowding places like Yuyuan Garden (豫园 a popluar shopping area) and Xintiandi (新天地). Of course there were the usual crowds, but I can remember having to work just to gain a few feet of ground. This time, however, I walked freely.
Construction: Ever since I started traveling to Shanghai for business (sometime in 2005), I was amazed by the amount of significant construction that was happening. From a normal drive from the Pudong Airport, you would see skyscraper after skyscraper being constructed for the 30 mile or so drive into the city. It was amazing to think about the number of people they would need to fill those apartments. This time, however, while there was still noticeable construction, the numbers seemed much less. Also, I did notice that many the massive structures that were being built seemed to be stalled, like construction had been halted.
Business relationship with the U.S.: There has been a strong push of confidence among the people even during this economic downturn. They have always been a people of strength and confidence, but now I see this even stronger. The effect feels like it is bringing our two nations closer. Like any good relationship, a feeling of being on equal footing makes for better communication and progress. As I discussed this topic with some of the people there, there was agreement that they felt the same way.
Since I have grown to appreciate the Chinese people over the years, I am happy we seem to be coming closer together.
BTW, If you travel to China, Shanghai is a must see.