China’s Charm


Wow! What a great trip. A wonderful cultural experience with plenty of educational content to make it clear that with China’s expanding GDP and household discretionary income, this country is the next frontier in branding and advertising not to mention international business, in general. That said, would I want to live in China? Perhaps, but the experience would be wrought with challenges:

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    While the main avenues are lined with mile high modern, artistic skyscrapers, the side streets expose the true living conditions of the nation’s average man. Cooping, killing and eating pigeons and carrying one’s overnight waste to the communal latrein doesn’t sound too glamourous to me.

  • It’s likely that I would only relate to expats living there. We went out every night while in China and seldom ran into locals. Probably because very few Chinese citizens currently have adequate discretionary to visit the area’s nicest clubs and restaurants. Hate to say that my standards for cleanliness, recent health and food safety scares (blue ear? and bird flu) etc. wouldn’t allow me to patronize the “local” restaurants, etc.
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    It’s not what you know…China’s all about who you know. As would be expected, the system’s cripled by censorship and the government’s will.

  • Pollution. With such rapid growth rates within the country’s main urban centers, inadequate public transport systems to support the demand (especially in Beijing), a thriving manufacturing industry and lax environmental mandates, it’s not difficult to understand why the sky is brown with haze. Beijing was the worst, Shanghai did boast blue skies and clean air. However, I fear that it may be the next Beijing as plans for growth have been set to increase the city’s size and population significantly by 2015.

Of the two cities, Shanghai was my favorite (much cleaner…the air in Beijing burned my eyes and lungs). But Beijing is the country’s historic roots. With the Forbidden City (Imperial Palace), the Great Wall and other sights that we were unable to see during our time (the Summer Palace, etc.), Beijing makes up for its negatives with culture and history.In contrast, Shanghai acts as the country’s financial center and, as such, attracts influential business people from around the world. Hence, the reason for all the European expats and business travelers. While in Shanghai, business seminar activities took up the bulk of our time. But, we did venture out at night and when we had moments here and there to get a feel for the city and to have a bit of fun. We had a great time in the city’s dance clubs and had Saturday afternoon to venture out on our own. My friend Lottie and I went out to the Yu Gardens and Bazaar, had tea in the local tea house, and roamed the old city with our own walking tour.

The school kindly housed us in posh hotels (China World Hotel in Beijing and Pudong Shangrila in Shanghai) and hosted a number of events to introduce us to local business leaders. Among the highlights:

  • Welcome Dinner ON the Great Wall of China
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    Riverside Gala Dinner in Pudong, Shanghai–overlooking the Bund in the distance

  • Alumni Networking Dinner and Drinks on the Hotel’s Garden Terrace overlooking the River and the Bund (complete with impromptu fireworks and the MetLife blimp–of all things?)

We also ventured to a few nightclubs as a group (as we didn’t see very much by day during the busy week):

  • Zapatas. Our entire class went to this dance club following our Riverside Gala. Unfortunately, no locals…all expats.
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    Jade. On the 36th floor of our hotel. Overlooking the River and Beautiful city scenery.

  • BATS. In the Basement of our hotel. Great silly, but enjoyable dance music, especially if bringing your own party as part of a large group.
  • Bar Rouge. On the roof of a historic building along the Bund. Great fun. Lots of expats. Amazing outdoor terrace overlooking the city. Crowded dance floor inside.
  • Cloud 9. On the 88th floor of one of Pudong’s newest and highest buildings. Known for its’ views, the cloudy, rainy weather allowed us more cloud views and city views, but the company was good and we had a great time.
  • Park 97. Another expat club (hmmm…seems to be a theme, right). Very modern. Funny thing, the Chinese love bars and clubs that feature cheeky cover bands that play American and UK tunes–with Chinese accents. Bizarre, but fun.
  • Suzy Wong in Beijing. We were there on Sunday night and, hence, it wasn’t busy. Not bad for us since we travel in 100’s rather than in pairs. We took over the club and had a great time on the outdoor terrace and dancing to the mod music downstairs. Great time.
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    Hao Hai. A little lakeside village with posh expat bars and a place called “Funky Bar”…our only experience of rubbing elbows with the locals along one of the cavernous side streets. On our first night in Beijing, Lottie, Shaun and I ventured out independently to see a bit of the city. Had a great time in a little shanty bar called “Funky Bar” where we sat with the locals on “elementary school chairs” and had great conversation by stenciled radiators and crepe paper cutouts. A bit strange and surreal, but quite enjoyable.


As our coursework is now complete, our China travels acted as a “last hurrah” for our class. By now, we’ve all developed our “core group” of friends–those you know you’ll keep in touch with. But, this was a great opportunity to re-acquaint yourself with others who you may never see again…though, I must admit that I spent the majority of the week having fun with my existing friends. Great time! Learned a lot. China’s a force to be reckoned with.

Click here to see additional photos from ShanghaiAnd here for Beijing.

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