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Don Malcolm's Visit to China

News: 17 April 2015

We belong to an international freight organisation that requires us to attend a meeting at least once every two years – I drew the short straw, and so began a trip to Shanghai.

Each meeting is at a different venue, and because the organisation is made up of companies from northern and southern hemispheres, and includes companies and individuals who may not normally be compatible, (people from the Arabic states have visa issues getting into the USA, and vice versa), the availability of direct flights, the “safety” of the venue, and perhaps most important to some, cost, agreeing on a suitable venue is always a tough call.

By all accounts, Shanghai ticked all the boxes, or at least most boxes for most delegates.
I travelled from Auckland on China Southern Airlines, and I now know that they are one of the biggest airlines in the world with literally hundreds of aircraft, mostly fairly new,  with cookie cutter crews who have learned their English by remote, seemingly not really understanding much, but young and attentive.

The vastness of Guangzhou and Shanghai airports astounded me, each having been built with the future in mind, and totally without compromise – perhaps not so good if your family farm was once within what is now airport, but I understand consultation is unheard of, and nothing is allowed to stand in the way of the common good (or progress).

The official population of Shanghai is 24 million, which is a scale that bewilders those of us used to our own space. The road from the airport into the city starts with hundreds of blocks of very utilitarian apartments, some older, but most relatively new, with the architecture getting more ambitious (and rentals correspondingly more expensive) as the centre of the city approaches.
Building within the city centre is crazy – hundreds of relatively new buildings, each screaming for attention by their design, leaving me wondering what compromises have to be made by the occupants.

Being amongst that many people, and in an environment where wandering slightly off the beaten track takes any lost tourist into “tiger country”, where language and cultural differences are considerable.

There is little doubt that China really is very keen to become a first world power, with their commitment and spending to achieve this apparent at every turn. From what I saw, progress is being made at a frantic pace, with the general population determined to embrace and enjoy the benefits that must inevitably follow – not to do so is to be left behind.

So, a great place to visit, dynamic and architecturally outrageous, but perhaps a step too far for a Kiwi used to the best New Zealand has to offer.


News added by: Don Malcolm 17 April 2015

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