Shanghai: The Wild Wild East of Business

So we spent the last week of the Doing Business in China program in Shanghai. This cool, modern city reminded me of New York with its many sky scrapers, incredible energy, and public transport system. Actually, it has more skyscrapers than New York, its packed with street vendors and entrepreneurs selling their wares, and the subway system is much more modern and cleaner than New York. The bullet train to the airport was cool, and much more impressive than JFK’s AirTrain. Then again, its a bit pointless to build a bullet train to travel 10 minutes at 300mph to get to the airport. (The plan is to eventually connect the bullet train to a nearby city).

As in Beijing, we attended lectures in the mornings and visited companies such as Deloitte, GE, and Microsoft in the afternoons. Our personal tour to the Shanghai World Expo planning committee’s offices were pretty cool. They had an impressive architectural model of the downtown area highlighting the redevelopment plan. Their plan was interesting: completely redevelop a mostly industrial sector of town and create lots of green space, build pavilions, retail zones, and new housing. What was not clear was what happend to the existing inhabitants. According to the plan, they moved to brand new affordable housing “that improved their quality of living.” I know what housing projects look like in New York, but we didn’t get a chance to see them first hand in China, though. Now that would have been educational and eye-opening, I’m sure. Maybe I’m too young, but I was totally disconnected with the whole “World Expo” thing. The Expo’s target customer demographic is the 45-60 year old age group, so perhaps I should not feel bad that I didn’t even know they kept holding these events.

We visited the Shanghai Stock Exchange and was disappointed to see it was completely empty. Actually, there was one sole lady doing her makeup on the floor of the exchange. Since the exchange is now mostly electronic trading, there’s not much point in having traders on the floor anymore. They still have hundreds of stalls (with computers in them) in case a trader decided to drop by and do something there. I guess most decide to trade from their homes via the Internet 😉

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