Sunday, 12 October 2008

Dalian, China

(by Richard Holway) Readers might have gathered by now that I’m away from the UK – therefore leaving Anthony to do all the work! I started my trip in Japan and have now moved on to China. I have never been to China before and, despite doing quite a lot of research before I left, I have been pretty surprised at what I have found. Unlike India, which has the skills but lacks the infrastructure, China seems to have both. Beijing was the most amazing city I have ever visited. But I have been told to hold my superlatives until I reach my last stop - Shanghai.

On Saturday I arrived in Dalian. With 6m people it is not that much smaller than London but few will have heard of it. Its skyscrapers, wide roads, little congestion or pollution was augmented by a friendly, clean and totally safe environment. No beggars, no poverty, no graffiti, no litter – nothing like Mumbai! The quest for education and advancement seems endemic. I was amazed at the number of children I saw playing chess in the parks.

The reason you ought to have heard of Dalian is that it is one of the biggest software and IT locations in China. Its software park is home to nearly 400 companies – 60% domestic, 27% Japanese. “The Rest” include Accenture, IBM, HP, Oracle, Genpact, SAP and BT. If India is the offshoring centre for the US and UK, then Dalian is the equivalent for Japan. (Dalian was occupied by the Japanese from 1905 – 1945. It’s also home to 2m Koreans who have a propensity to learn Japanese.)

Dalian generated SITS revenues of c$3b last year – probably less than a quarter of that generated in Bangalore. But it is claimed that these revenues are growing by c100% pa – considerably faster than Bangalore. Whereas Bangalore suffers from a chronic lack of infrastructure, you really can only stand in awe at what Dalian has to offer. Add to that Dalian’s 22 universities and 300 scientific research institutions producing 14,000 skilled IT graduates a year willing to work for a starting salary of $250 a month – and you get an idea of what the future might hold.

I have little doubt from what I have seen with my own eyes that China will, very shortly, become the new global superpower. Indeed the events of the last few weeks on global markets will just hasten that day.

Footnote – Before I get the avalanche of emails saying “But what about China’s human rights etc.?” let me say that I agree that all this ‘progress’ comes at a price.

Two anecdotes.

Our guide in Tiananmen Square wouldn’t answer any questions relating to the protests of June 1989 when 3000 students were massacred. “We are not taught this at school”.

Later in the square I was about to buy (for a pittance) a souvenir from a hawker. The moment I got out my money the police pretty aggressively pounced on the vendor and literally threw her into the back of a police van.

I dread to think what would happen if you protested about a planning application to knock your home down to build one of these new skyscrapers.

But regardless, the Chinese seem pretty happy with the progress being made. A poll this week showed 86% of Chinese people think their government is going a good job. The equivalent figure in the US is 9%.

1 comment:

Alex van Someren said...

To paraphrase a Chinese saying: "Every avalanche begins with the first snowball"...

China may be demonstrating amazing economic growth, but it is coming not just at the expense of human rights, but also at the expense of the environment and at the expense of many well-established moral and ethical norms.

It may be an impressive place to visit, but anyone who sees it as a huge, untapped business opportunity needs only look at the last couple of weeks to see what happens when greed is allowed to trample morality underfoot.