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My Trip to Shanghai

I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a business trip to Shanghai this past week (December 5-13). The company where I work was putting on a conference to help investors meet up-and-coming small-cap companies — companies like American Lorain, the number-one producer of chestnut products in China; China Natural Gas, the first China-based U.S. listed natural gas company; and China GengShen Minerals, Chinese-based manufacturers of industrial materials for the steel, oil and solar industry. After business was done, me and John were able to fit a little sightseeing in Shanghai in. So, here are my impressions…

Shanghai is a fusion of New York and Paris, only bigger. The city is bustling; it never sleeps. And, almost everything (as of the winter of 2009) is under renovation due to the upcoming World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. I imagine the city by then will be absolutely stunning. The fashionistas in Shanghai are more fashionable than NYC or Paris, and the skyline is more grand and more vast. Incredible. If you never saw anywhere outside of Shanghai, you’d think China was beyond superpower status. But I’m told by natives that there are much more rurals areas. And, lest we not forget that average family’s disposable income in 2007 was about $3,375. Living space in Shanghai is about 140 sq. ft. per person. (Think about that the next time you complain you need a bigger house.) And, official minimum wage is set at about US$1 per day. I’d say China is probably the equivalent of America in the 1920s. They are certainly beyond starving in the streets, but I’m not sure the entire nation has TVs, cell phones, or indoor plumbing yet. But, there is definitely a wonderful sense in the air that they are on the rise — and capitalism is not to be quelled.

At the same time you feel the individualism, you also feel the government’s heavy hand. The paper daily told of executions — drug smuggler, porn seller, Madoffian embezzlers –all executed. There is vitually no crime, no doubt from fear of execution. And, when I overheard an American businessman asking a Chinese businessman how he could buy his land or mineral rights in China, the Chinaman said, “Oh, I can’t sell my land to you. I must sell my land to the government.” So, property rights are nil.

Interestingly, I found Internet access fairly good. I could get my Yahoo! email, and I had no trouble logging in to work on my company’s website. I was even able to read RealClearPolitics.com and DrudgeReport.com, though I am not sure if this is because I was accessing the Internet via a 5-Star hotel or not. I was not able to access Facebook or Twitter. These sites are blocked; and, I think MySpace is blocked too, though I did not check this site.

BBC, CNN and other news sites were shown on our hotel TV; but, for what it’s worth, no Fox News.

We managed one side trip to the city of Hang Zhou, which used to be the capital of China. It reached its peak around 1179 A.D.

Pictures say a 1,000 words…I’ll post more when I have time.

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