Bob in China: First impressions
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  1. #1
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    Bob in China: First impressions

    I’m at Ground Zero in the manufacturing revolution: Beijing.

    It’s my first trip to China. The excuse for coming here is the China International Machine Tool Show – the world’s third-largest machine tool show, if I have my trade-show trivia correct. The real reason, though, is to gain some ground-level understanding of this country, it’s people, and the incredible success they’ve had in overhauling the worldwide economics of making stuff.

    The trip began in Hong Kong, where I spent two days to meet with our Asian publishing partners and to apply for the $200 entrance visa to the mainland.

    For those of you who haven’t brushed up on Asian history, Hong Kong was still part of the British Empire until 10 years ago, when it was turned over to China. And while it’s part of China today, it is clearly not China.

    Hong Kong is consumerism on steroids – a vibrant city and outlying territory where “upscale Gallerias” serve the same purpose as coffee shops in Seattle: They provide something to occupy every corner. Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is Amish by comparison.

    Once the visa came through on Tuesday at precisely 5 p.m. as scheduled, I took the express plane to the airport for my 3-and-a-half-hour flight to Beijing. Somewhere, though, I think the pilot must have taken a wrong turn, landing instead at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

    Let’s see. How can I be polite. In the first 25 minutes I learned that the inmates are running the asylum. On one hand it’s lawless; under the eyes of guards assigned to bring order to the taxi queue, rogue drivers pluck unsuspecting tourists (me) out of the line and shove them into unmetered cabs for highly inflated prices (to my credit, I got out of the cab before he left the airport and refused to pay anything – and then got right into another unmetered cab and still got scammed, but for half as much).

    On the other hand, anyone who wears a militaristic uniform – the doorman at my hotel is dressed like the Wehrmacht – wields absolute domain for as far as his whistle can be heard.

    It’s just like the pictures: crowded and chaotic, kind of gray and I don’t believe I’ve seen anybody smile yet. They aren’t into “excuse me” either. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a car, on a bike or walking: the people here set a course and rely on others to get out of the way.

    Now, I’ve got to recognize that it’s a land with the longest recorded history of any country on Earth, and I’ve spent less than 24 hours here traversing no more than a few square miles. So I don’t know how much of what I’ve seen is the Chinese culture or a function of living in a really, really big city. Take my observations in that spirit.

    But I do know that what I’ve seen so far doesn’t come close to explaining the amazing success China has had in joining the world economy. In fact, for all the fast-moving bustle, nobody seems to be busy at anything. They have the same four shovel-bearing workers staring at a hole in the street that we have in Cleveland. In four out of four cab rides, my driver got lost. (And I don’t for a minute believe they were lost; I think they were running up the meter, sometimes by as much as 10 yuan; which is really unfuriating until you remember that it amounts to an extra $1.25.)

    Even flashing lights on a police car are viewed with apathy – if they’re noticed at all. In my last cab adventure of the evening, the driver followed up a wrong turn by doing a three-point U turn – unconcerned that the police car with flashing lights behind us had to wait while he completed the maneuver.

    All of these impressions are consistent with my first day on the show floor at CIMT, too. This show is not about innovation and new technology. It’s about availability and volume.

    For every 5-axis machining center you’ve heard of, there are a dozen others with names you can’t pronounce. And three-axis horizontal mills are more likely to be at the front of a large booth than the machining centers anyway.

    It’s a large show, occupying at least eight buildings (I seem to have lost my show map; I’ll fill in the precise number tomorrow); I found an entire hall filled with motors, ballscrews and other components from Chinese companies that don’t even bother to provide an English translation of their name. My favorite moment of the day came when I stopped to take a picture (I’ll post it when I get home) of a 30-foot ballscrew – the longest I’ve ever seen. It alarmed representatives at the booth. “You’re not supposed to take pictures,” my companion told me.

    “I refuse to care,” I replied. “Like they don’t do exactly the same thing every time they come to a show in America.” Nonetheless, they put a security guard on my tail. Dressed in an olive-drab jumpsuit, a white crossing-guard belt and a large, green hat – he stayed one step behind me until I left for a different exhibition hall.

    Americans tend to feel like we’ve been victimized by the Chinese. I’m telling you: Don’t take it personally. This isn’t a case of the Chinese coming after us; it’s a case of the Chinese coming after everyone.

    Tongtai Industries of Taiwan is showing a new, 24-tool double-turret lathe – the most sophisticated lathe the company has yet produced. “I would guess you do well with that in the United States,” I said. “Yes,” their representative replied. “But where it’s really selling is Taiwan.”

    I asked why. Because, he told me, independent machine shops in Taiwan are losing so much low-end production work to China, that they only way they can stay in business is to buy more advanced equipment that allows them to produce high-value, complex parts.

    I just love irony.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

  2. #2
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Hahaaa - great review Bob. For some reason, I can put myself there and just imagine everything you mention. I've been to quite a few countries, while in the military, so I've seen a range of cultures. Thanks for some enlightenment on our "copycat" counter culture.
    John
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Thanks for some enlightenment on our "copycat" counter culture.
    Last night I went to dinner with two friends from another company -- one of them works in the Shanghai office and the other in Hong Kong. We took a taxi to a nightlife strip in the area of the city where all the international embassies are located. The strip was about 6 blocks long, and by appearances could have been located just about anywhere.

    FIrst stop while strolling was at a video store. It was a brightly lit, well-kept shop, filled with new DVD releases, old classics and everything in between. Packaging looked absolutely authentic -- high quality and manu of the titles were in tamper-proof shrink-wrap. The most expensive DVDs were 20 yuan -- roughly $3. I was assured that 100 percent of the store's content was pirated. (Being a purist about intellectual property, I wasn't even tempted to buy, though one of my companions bought a copy of "300").

    Just outside the store was a vendor of counterfeit cigarettes; my other companion bought a pack that, based on the low price, he said were probably made in Russia. (I neglected to note how much he paid).

    As we continued our walk, I saw another half-dozen cigarette vendors.

    When in Hong Kong, I was pratically assaulted by street vendors, proudly offering knock-off watches -- Rolex, Breitling, Tag Heuer and many other high-end brands.

    This practice costs billions of dollars a year for the real builders of intellectual property and respected brands around the world. In the welding world, friends from Lincoln Electric and Miller both have told me that they've been victims -- with companies building machinery that is incredibly close in appearance to the real thing, even going so far as to photocopy authentic manuals for inclusion with the goods. One of our own WeldingWeb members was looking at equipment on eBay a few weeks ago that was almost certainly counterfeit.

    The problem is that the Chinese culture doesn't view such copying as either criminal or wrong. I believe -- though I could be wrong -- that under international pressure, China has laws against piracy of this nature. But there is little hope of compliance because, top to bottom, I'm told that people here simply see it as a legitimate way to make money to copy something that is already successful.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    I just saw something on the news today they are going to start legislation for putting an end to it. The entertainment industry is sick of all the lost money.
    John
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    It was raining this morning in Beijing, and the traffic – always astounding – was now wet, slow and astounding. The taxi line in front of the hotel was depleted, and as I anticipated another long drive in a cab that smelled like stale cigarettes, I hoped for Beijing to show me some sign of redemption.

    It came in the form of Ou Yangkai, vice president of Sichuan West Tools Manufacturing Co. Ltd.; he too was waiting for a cab, and when he noticed my convention badge he offered to share the ride with me. It was a relief; with a Chinese native in the back seat with me, I anticipated my first ride in which the driver didn’t dare to get lost.

    Yesterday, it seemed that I only saw the downside of the Chinese culture, which has embraced all of the inherent flaws of Communism: bureaucracy, sluggishness and an aggravating tendency to do no more or less than the day before – because nobody said to do otherwise.

    It left me wondering how these guys are kicking the *** of the entire global economy.

    Yangkai is the new China – the one that will make whatever the world will buy, and do so at the lowest possible price, at whatever level of quality the customer desires. That’s right: I’ve come to appreciate the fact that if the Chinese make crap, it’s because their customers want crap, because THEIR customers (that’s us) will BUY crap, so long as it looks a lot like the more expensive non-crap.

    Yangkai’s company has two lines of products – tooling, and power handtools. He bought a Blackberry in the U.S., and pays Cingular $150 a month so he can get e-mail anywhere in the world. “You can’t do that with a Chinese service,” he said. “But I don’t use the phone, because it would be an American phone number.”

    He feels the same way about his Blackberry that I do. “It’s very useful. I like being able to get e-mail any time. But it’s not always so good. When I used to wake up at night, I would reach for my wife,” he said. “Now I reach for my Blackberry.”

    I didn’t know how companies here behave about such tools, so I asked whether he had to pay for the service himself. He laughed. “My company pays for it. Of course. I don’t want these e-mails.”

    Yangkai’s English is excellent, with a pretty good accent and a large vocabulary. He didn’t go overseas for his education; his engineering degree and his English are products of the Chinese schools. He is proud of his company and its fast-growing sales. He is energetic. He knows what’s going on the world. His favorite business destination is Italy.

    At an event like the Chinese International Machine Tool Show, you can meet representatives of Chinese companies that are strictly domestic – making tooling and components and workholding, etc. to serve just the Chinese market. These people don’t travel to shows like IMTS and EMO, so you can’t meet them unless you come here. They are completely unaware that many Americans feel threatened by China, and blame China for usurping our manufacturing base. Their products failed to impress me, and they are part of what put me in a dark mood yesterday.

    But Yangkai is more like the Chinese executives you’d meet in America and Europe. He is well aware of the resentment; unapologetic, but not unsympathetic. “Our turn will come too,” he said. “Today, the economies of America and Europe only grow slowly. Someday, we will feel the same way.”

    But not quite yet. As the cab ride was ending, he told me that his largest customer in the United States spends $2 million a year with him. It’s Harborfreight, so now you know a little bit about the “Made in China” tools that people like to gripe about.

    And his business with Lowe’s and Home Depot is growing nicely.

    I really enjoyed the 45 minutes we spent in the car together. Yangkai is energetic and well-spoken and simply very nice. I’d like the idea of building a friendship with him.

    But some things are bigger than friendship; which is why this American let the Chinese guy pay for the cab.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Hahahaaa, " which is why this America let the Chinese guy pay...". Bob - once again your story line and commentary bring light to my day. Once I left the military, I am otherwise stuck in the old US of A. I like it here but my point being, I LOVE TO TRAVEL. Thanks again for the experience. Keep having a good time over there.
    John
    - fabricator extraordinaire, car nut!
    - bleeding Miller blue!

    http://www.weldfabzone.com


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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Teriffic stuff Bob. Glad to hear you are having a better time of it.

    What you say makes me think and I wonder if we can blame ourselves as well as the usual punching bag of selfish CEOs and shortsighted shareholders.

    I just ordered a Chinese made TIG welder that was 1/3 the price of anything else I could find. Bottom line was it was that or nothing. Chinese labor is indeed cheap but they still have to get the stuff here and that costs something. I think we have no choice but to cede manufacturing of the "commodity" type product to overseas. More of the whys and wherefores have to be examined as to how we can expand our manufacturing base -- innovation, pride and superior skill used to be our advantage.

    Looking at one issue, pride in what one makes and does balanced with the reward for doing it. Same as greedy CEOs and shareholders, if all we (collectively) do is focus on what "management" will give me and not enough on making a superior product, there's no way to compete with the rest of the world. Maybe we need to get back to basics and give each other the respect deserved for "ordinary" work well done. There's more to life than just the almighty and immediate dollar. The shortage of youth going into the trades is a reflection of that -- not enough emphasis placed on the intrinsic value of skills and the lifelong satisfaction from jobs well done.

    Anyway, keep the travel log coming. Really interesting.

  8. #8
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    I wrote a couple days ago that the China Industrial Machine Tool Show is less about innovation than about volume and availability. I spent my last day at the show walking the 10 exhibition halls to back up that statement.

    Automation was all but non-existent. I saw two smallish robot arms. There were some bar feeders too. But if there were any pallet-changers, gantries or any other kind of material handling solutions on exhibit, I didn’t see them.

    I also seem to have missed the software providers that occupy a meaningful section of any U.S. or European trade show. I can’t believe they weren’t there, but I couldn’t find them.

    Precision machines were in attendance, but they were a sideshow. At one point, I walked into a new hall and saw case after case of tiny, finely machined parts. At a show where the halls are organized by nationality, this one, naturally, belonged to the Swiss.

    Size mattered – but in China it’s not about the small stuff. I’ve never seen so much monster equipment on display at a single show. The biggest might have been the CWT 130 x 145 turning and machining center, produced by China’s Quiqihar Heavy CNC Equipment Corp. Ltd. It can handle a workpiece 48 feet long and more than 13 feet in diameter. I couldn’t find a photo angle that would provide a sense for the mass of the machine and the crankshaft (for a 5000 hp freighter engine) mounted on it. I’ll post what I got when I get home.

    The HTM mill/turn center, produced by Shenyang No. 1 Machine Tool Works was small by comparison – but big enough that you could put all the contents of my hotel room inside and still have room for a few friends and a keg of beer.

    There were several giant horizontal mills and an abundance of bridge mills – the kind of stuff nobody bothers shipping to show in the United States.

    At work, I hear all the time that the Chinese are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their machining; that they are buying ever-more-sophisticated equipment and that it’s only a matter of time before we can’t beat them on precision any more than we can beat them on price.

    It may happen, but judging by the brute power that was on display in China this week, I wouldn’t say it’s imminent.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Enjoyed the read, Bob. You should be a writer Very interesting stuff and I would also like to visit China someday when I retire. Maybe I should plan to go when there is a trade show because I love machining, manufacturing and production equipment.
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Moran
    Enjoyed the read, Bob. You should be a writer Very interesting stuff and I would also like to visit China someday when I retire. Maybe I should plan to go when there is a trade show because I love machining, manufacturing and production equipment.
    Yes, I've found that international trade shows give me a great excuse to do some sightseeing. Can you believe someone actually PAYS me to do this?
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob at WeldingMag
    Yes, I've found that international trade shows give me a great excuse to do some sightseeing. Can you believe someone actually PAYS me to do this?
    just rub it in bob, rub it in.
    "Retreat hell, were just fighting in the other direction"

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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Great read Bob, looking foward to the pics. you know we like pics
    Dewayne
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Tiananmen Square is the biggest public plaza I have ever seen. It’s half-a-mile long by a third of a mile wide. Words won’t describe it; photos can’t capture it. My quick math tells me you could fit 88 football fields into it; the square’s width would fit three of them end-to-end.

    The south end of the square is defined by two imperial-era gates – the Jianlou and Quianmen gates – standing six stories tall – which protected the entrance to ancient Beijing. Then there is the Chairman Mao Memorial, where his body lays for near-daily viewing. It’s a massive building that looks like many pillared memorials around the world. My guidebook says it was built in 1977 with volunteer labor – though I’ve got to wonder whether people actually stepped forward on their own. I’ve been reticent to ask questions of the few English-speaking Chinese that I’ve been able to talk to about their feelings for Mao. While be brought order to China after an era of upheaval, he was also a central part of that upheaval and his reign wasn’t exactly marked by benign acts of grace.

    So I don’t know people here revere Mao as much the official, omnipresent public references to him would seem to indicate. But I do know many ordinary people are making a capitalist living by selling $3 wristwatches, book bags, snow globes and T-shirts (couldn’t resist one for myself) that bear his likeness. Spoken references to him seem now to hold the kind of patina that comes with old memories, made pleasant by time passed. The people are optimistic here. They have seen endless change that is making many of them wealthier and more independent; perhaps they see Mao as the navigator who set the course for the good times they are living today. It’s just a guess.

    I couldn’t visit the mausoleum because it’s closed for renovations before next summer’s Olympics, and is well-guarded by serious, stiff-shouldered soldiers.

    Tiananmen Square was built in the 1950s as a place for official rallies and gatherings. But it was built on the same place where such gatherings had taken place for at least a couple-hundred years – just outside the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of the Heavenly Peace), where imperial pronouncements were made. In 1949, this is where people gathered to be told that China was now a People’s Republic.

    Today, large light poles mark off the Square in grids; each pole bristles with powerful lamps, large loudspeakers, and security cameras pointed in multiple directions. When I visited, it was being used like a large, paved park; people were picnicking, and flying kites. But it strikes me as a place the government built in the 1950s as a place for people to come when called and to fall in line.

    A few long hail-Mary passes north of the mausoleum is the Monument to the People’s Heroes. It’s a large and beautiful column built in a traditional Chinese form. It’s off-limits to everyone except the soldiers who guard the low barrier fence built around its perimeter. According to my guidebook, the monument remembers “those who struggled for the country’s independence.” It was closed to the public to prevent the laying of wreaths – a practice that at least twice caused riots when the government removed remembrances for liberal politicians, the guidebook says. The second of those was in 1989, though book only implies the immediate connection to the well-known massacre that followed. Even Fodor’s is careful here.

    The Square is bounded on the East by the Museum of Chinese History/Museum of the Chinese Revolution, also closed for renovation. It’s enough for now to say the façade is massive. On the other side, even more massive, is the Great Hall of the People – the Parliament building where government convenes. It’s all very cleverly assembled to draw you into the middle and make you feel absolutely insignificant. It’s awesome and powerful and, on the day I visited, non-threatening. But there is no question, when in Tiananmen Square, that you are not in charge.

    Perhaps the only structure more impressive, more awe inducing, more daunting, is across the broad avenue at the north end of the Square: The Tiananmen Gate that marks the entrance to the Forbidden City – the palace complex of the emperors and so named because commoners were forbidden to enter on penalty of death.

    I’ll visit that today. But I already know from seeing its outside that the Forbidden City – no matter how impressive or beautiful it proves itself to be – is simply a different path to the same destination. While Tiananmen Square invites you in and surrounds you at every level with reminders of the common man’s insignificance, the Forbidden City conveys the same message by locking you out.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Holy great writing batman!

    Makes me feel as if I were there. Again, excellent stuff. Keep it coming.

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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    I spent 4 hours in the Forbidden City today. It's kept as a museum. For $60 yuan (about $8) you get a ticket. For another 40 yuan (another $8) you get an automatic audio tour. Or if you're gullible (I didn't make any such mistakes today), you can pay 200-300 yuan ($30-45) for one of the dozens of people near the gate who will offer to give you a personal guided tour -- probably in the most rudimentary English and with no real historical insight; take the official audio tour; it's pretty good.

    The Forbidden City is the largest palace complex in the world, and it just goes on forever.

    I visited at least 8 palaces within the complex and ran out of energy to see the other 50% of the self-guided tour.

    On one hand, I was surprised at how much of the complex is under maintained and falling apart. On the other hand, it's the upkeep of the imperial properties -- the Forbidden City, the summer palace, the Imperial Gardens, the Children's Palace, etc. -- that bankrupted the country at the turn of the 20th Century, and led to the end of the imperial structure.

    China is rich now with cash it doesn't even know how to spend. And the two largest buildings in the Forbidden City are closed for renovations in the buildup to the 2008 Olympics -- as is so much else around the city. So it's not like the government ISN'T spending money on this spectacular complex.

    But how much should it spend now, if there wasn't enough money then -- when the government wasn't expected to do so much for its people?

    It's a shame; the whole site is such a thing of beauty and such an amazing collection of engineering marvels... But the excessiveness of it makes you choke; it explains exactly why the Communists ended up in charge. The English language brochures about the Forbidden City describe it as a source of pride for the Chinese people. But I suspect the real point of this Palace Museum, as it's officially called, is to remind the Chinese people how much better off they are now than when they were subjects of the Emporer.

    It may very well be true.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    The pace of change in Beijing is so fast that every foreigner I’ve talked to who has been here before can hardly believe it -- even if they were just here last year. I can’t imagine how fast the change must seem to the people who live here.

    One of the biggest changes, I’m told, is the number of automobiles. “Ten years ago, we didn’t have traffic jams; we had bike jams,” a young Chinese woman told me. To be sure, there are still bicycles everywhere. Most have two wheels, some have three; some have little motors – either traditional mopeds or homebuilt contraptions. And they seem to live an amazingly harmonious existence with the cars. I’ve seen only one traffic accident in my travels through the city, and boy were the drivers screaming at each other.

    Otherwise, driving here typifies what I’ve seen in my other trips to Asia; regardless of transportation mode, people seem to weave their way without road rage or stupid accidents – doing things that would cause disaster anywhere in the U.S.

    But the question is how it’s going to be in 10 years. The traffic jams begin early here – about about 6 a.m. outside my hotel window – and they go all day. Over the weekend, it didn’t start quite so early, but when it got going, it was actually worse than during the week. And still, penetration of cars among the population remains low. I don’t have any statistics. But if one out 10 bicycles that I see in the street right now was converted to automobiles, the gridlock would be epic.

    There is also a lot of change surrounding the Olympics. The whole city is getting a scrubbing in anticipation of the world’s eyes next summer. The traditional Chinese neighborhood is called a Hutong; it’s a warren of shop-lined alleys that lead to crooked walkways, lined with old tenement-style brick homes. All over the city, these Hutongs are being demolished, often replaced with high-rise apartment buildings. The other day, I paid a young man to give me a rickshaw tour (totally unnecessary; I’ve since found they’re much more fun to walk through) of the oldest Hutong, built in the shadow of the Forbidden City. It’s almost dead now; there are few businesses left and most of the people are gone. It’s north end has already been replaced by the Olympic soccer stadium – an ultra modern structure that looks like one a stainless steel bubble. The rest of the Hutong’s demolition continues, carried out by men who look like they were chosen right out of the neighborhood to do the work. They wear street clothes of all kinds, often with sneakers or sandals, and pull down the 400-year-old homes with picks, sledge hammers and shovels.

    I took a long walk back from the Forbidden City yesterday – about 4 miles – which led me through two other large Hutongs. Both of these are still vital bustling, and while they look like poor neighborhoods, they aren’t. A large Mercedes Benz was parked outside a courtyard in one, and even as I took a picture of it, I missed another shot as an upscale young man dressed in an elegant suit and very shiny black shoes all but strutted off the main street, into the Hutong and straight into one of the walking paths that lead to the residences. A group of old men stood in a cluster, watching a match of Chinese Chess; one of them men was wearing a Bluetooth earpiece. It’s near-communal living in a beloved tradition, but it is not limited the expected demographics.

    The second Hutong was located in the shadow of the old Bell Tower and Drum Tower complex – two imperial-era structures that were the Greenwich meantime of China; they were used to standardize time keeping – with drums beaten and bells rung every hour – until the early 20th Century. This neighborhood was more tourist oriented; the first time I stumbled on it, on a weekday, it was quietly alive. I saw a little bar that looked attractive, but I was too tired to go in. This time I sought it out, only to find a bunch of tour buses in the central courtyard, and a parade of rickshaws taking the tour groups on a ride. The bar itself was a tangle of small rooms, and a steep staircase up to more seating on the roof. It had free Wi-Fi and I had a beer and a big bowl of noodles for 30 yuan – about $4. I was surrounded by youthful travelers from all over the world. Many were staying in the Youth Hostel that I learned was within easy walking distance.

    The Hutongs though, are going away, and the government, I’m told, has little concern about them. They are part of the past; not part of the China that the world is supposed to see during the Olympics, and not part of the city’s long-term future.

    Early on my trip, I was taken to dinner by some associates who come to Beijing at least a couple times a year. They wanted to take me to a specific restaurant. We took the 30-minute cab ride, then walked two blocks through a business district. The whole time they marveled at how everything here had been rebuilt in the last year. As we turned into the alley, one of them said, “I hope the restaurant is still there.” It was, but it was closed and the building was marked for imminent demolition.

    My trip to the Great Wall a few days ago took us through the countryside northwest of Beijing. We saw a smattering of primitive-looking factories – about half of which looked vacated – and many old farming communities. In more than one case, these were fringed with large, new housing developments – 6- or 7-floor apartment buildings that looked as nice as any middle-class new-build in the United States. I don’t know who is expected to live in all these buildings, and where they are expected to work. Perhaps the government is already envisioning the kind of suburban sprawl that’s so familiar to us.

    But no matter where you look or what you think about, the one thing that’s most obvious at every level is the change.

    Here are 4 more quick examples – all from headlines in this morning’s China Daily, an English-language newspaper:
    + The first annual report on the health of the Yangtze River indicates that it is in critical condition and urges massive investment and effort to clean it up.
    + The government over the weekend held events in a number of Chinese cities where 42 million copycat items – DVDs, music CDs, shoes, purses, etc. – were destroyed as part of an increasing effort to protect intellectual property rights.
    + Chinese people are planning earlier and earlier for retirement, with the average person starting to invest at the age of 37. Also, according to an international study cited in the paper, Chinese retirees are among the happiest in the world.
    + An editorial warned against what it called “Irrational enthusiasm” in the Chinese stockmarket, which has been rising quickly but over the last few days has started to show signs of volatility due to over-eager investment.

    To put all of this into a tight, neat little package – which is my tendency – would be impossible. After a week here, I’m not sure what to make of China. It is traditional yet pioneering; provincial yet worldly; Communist yet capitalist. This country is not what I thought it was when I arrived a week ago, and yet it is everything I expected, too.

    This will be my last post from China. I’m flying home in a few hours. I enjoyed the stay and enjoyed writing about it. I’ve enjoyed your readership and your comments.

    But I will enjoy nothing more than being home again.
    Bob Rosenbaum
    Former Publisher
    Penton's WELDING Magazine

  17. #17
    Join Date
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    No place like home, huh. Great story, can't wait for the pics.
    Dewayne
    Dixieland Welding

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  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    Sydney
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    I love your travel diaries, Bob.
    It would take months and months on the ground to get your head around that country.
    The shift in the US/China relationship is going to be the thing that defines the first half of this century.
    Scott

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    omitted to save space.[/QUOTE]

    Thanks for the story Bob.
    Amazing indeed, and sort of interesting about meeting with a Harbor freight connection. I bet you were happy to get home. Right?
    Last edited by Donald Branscom; 12-26-2007 at 02:13 AM.

  20. #20

    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    I've been over there twice. I did a bit of sightseeing while there. It's a different kind of place. The people there don't hate Americans at all. In fact, the govt has advertisements everywhere saying that learning English can help you in your career and lead to a better life for your family.

    Did you buy a Rolex yet? In case you haven't figured it out, most of them you can get for about $7USD..up to about $50 tops.

    Ipods are cheap, but are knockoffs. I bought a few of them and about 1/3 of them died within a couple months.

    You can get the wife a nice knockoff Louis Vuitton purse for about $20-70. Some are actually very well made...might even be the real thing.

    I toured several plants while I was there. One was anodizing the small tags that said "Pier 1." Many big name companies are now buying from China. Even if you reject 1/3 of the product you receive, you're buying stuff at about 1/3 the price...leaving you 1/3 more profit.

  21. #21

    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    Quote Originally Posted by Engloid View Post
    Ipods are cheap, but are knockoffs. I bought a few of them and about 1/3 of them died within a couple months.
    I bought a real ipod, and it died within a couple months... After a ton of hassle, I got them to replace it. Then I forgot the thing was on the floor of my truck, and it got slammed in the door.

    I guess I am just not meant to have an ipod.
    The Welder Shop has great deals and reviews on Hobart, Miller and Lincoln Welders.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
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    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    It appears as though 'China' has come here from the looks of the spam.....

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    63

    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    My work involves me travelling to China 4 to 5 times a year and I probably average close to 3 months a year in China. It is a complicated land and a even more complicated culture to really get to know. The everyday people that I meet can be categorized as being friendly and helpful . This may be in part to me being a Foreigner .
    Shanghai is a international City with a continental feel to it ,wether you are wondering the old French quarter or taking in the sights of the Bund you can see and feel the European heritage around you in this Far East City.
    Moving further inland and going to the ancient Capital of the Middle Kingdom ( Nanking) now Nanjing you can see why this City was once called the Paris of the Orient with the wide tree lined. Boulevards and wandering canals.and of course within the ancient walls of this City the modern History of the rape of Nanjing is remembered well by its people's.
    I often forget it is a communist state ,and I am only rarely reminded of this if I am out with friends who have political influences in the party such as having police open walkways that are closed to traffic so we can drive and not walk . Or having the police chief doing you a favour because you have been caught during a roadside breathalyzer blitz and have gone over the limit.. This just does not happen here in Canada but I suspect it is not too uncommon in other parts of the world.
    Cheers
    Duncan
    UA Local 853
    Everlast Welders Canada

  24. #24
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Would love to see some pics...
    Tiger Sales: AHP Distributor www.tigersalesco.com
    AHP200x; AHP 160ST; MM350P, Spoolmatic 30A; Everlast PowerTig 185; ESAB 875 plasma;Evo 355. OA

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    63

    Re: Bob in China: First impressions

    I was actually in a TV infomercial for a new restaurant that was opening. Here is the link for the Beijing Restaurant

    http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNDU0NDM4ODY4.html?x

    Here is a view from my hotel where I stay when I am working at the factory overseeing our product build.



    There is a ongoing thread on our own forum showing a number of pictures from the factory and some other areas
    Cheers
    UA Local 853
    Everlast Welders Canada

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