Saturday, July 23, 2011

Travel Notes from Asia - July 2011

• Don’t get me wrong, I still like to travel to China, but I find it intensely annoying that one cannot access Facebook or Wikipedia in China.

• It’s still polluted here. Here’s a picture from my hotel window in Tianjin on a clear day.

• The next time that Thomas Friedman starts bloviating about how great it is to be China, someone ought to remind him that it’s a desperately poor, horrifyingly polluted totalitarian country where one cannot even have a Facebook account. The fact that they put up a few solar farms to impress the Friedmans of the world is of little account. Their power is still dirty coal.

• Chinese people, including highly educated Chinese people, are strangely unaware of many world events, and totally unaware of any domestic policy issues or debates. That entire category of small talk is out-of-bounds for the awkward business dinner, where common small talk categories are highly prized. There are only so many times that one can comment about the food. Silent pauses are not uncommon. Especially if your hosts don’t really care about the recent US/Japan women’s World Cup soccer game, either.

• The amount of investment occurring in China is still breathtaking. There are skyscraper cranes as far as the eye can see in most cities. Beijing and Shanghai are happening places. Here’s Pudong in Shanghai at night from Sir Elly’s above the Bund.

• Anyone who thinks that income inequality is an issue in the United States really ought to visit China.

• Jetlag notes: I wondered at 5AM whether the health club would be open yet, only to find it already jammed with Americans when I went down there.

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