From Here to There...From East to West by Jane Shey ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment
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Friday, September 17, 2010

From Here to There...From East to West by Jane Shey

...in this, the latest installment by our roving columnist Jane Shey, who divides her time between Belgium and Annapolis recounts her recent trip to Hong Kong....reflects on this metropolis which she says is like "New York on steroids" and  wonders how the US will compete with China in the years ahead.:

From West to East, I traveled from Leuven to the US and then on to Hong Kong to attend a trade show on behalf of the US Apple Export Council. The show, Asia Fruit Logistica, is the second largest trade show in the world for fruit and focuses on buyers from Asia, India and eastern Russia.

This was my first trip to Hong Kong and in a word - wow! It is New York on steroids. It was a 45 minute cab ride from the airport to my hotel facing the Hong Kong harbor. At one point, we passed 15 apartment buildings that had to be 50 stories high clumped together just like Sequoia Trees. And from that point, the buildings became more numerous and magnificent. The city glowed with lights and the names of major corporations from the US, China, Japan and Switzerland. It is a city of 7 million people but on a much smaller footprint than New York because of limited building space due to the mountains behind it. Twenty-two million people visit the city every year with half from mainland China.

While much of the city is prosperous and seems to glow, obviously, there are parts of the city which are poor and life seems simple and hard. I walked through the Gucci Gulch of high end stopping until I came to a neighborhood with no Westerners and the signs were only in Chinese. The buildings were worn and looked like they were built in the 1950's. In this area, I felt like I saw the real Hong Kong and not just the glitter and gold of a glossy magazine ad.

I was only in Hong Kong for three days but I have the following observations:

1) As we all know Asia is where the growth is and in many areas a window into future innovations in transportation, technology and consumer markets. I saw it first hand and I am a believer.

2) The customer service in the hotels, restaurants and stores was amazing. This may be due in part to the Asian culture but also it seems there are many people willing to work and I suspect the wage scale is lower than the US.

3) The transportation system is impressive. The airport was beautiful and efficient and it was a 20 minute, $15 dollar train ride to the center of the city. There are ferries to take people across the harbor to other parts of the city, similar to New York.

4) The food choices are so plentiful. The people in Hong Kong like food fresh so there are markets where the fish or poultry are pulled out of tanks or cages and dressed on the spot. There were so many fruits and vegetables that I have never seen before. Once again, another country that has a much better food selection and diet than the US.

5) I didn't see anyone who was overweight. When I was there the temperature was in the mid-90's with steam bath humidity and so any amount of walking in that weather would probably shed the pounds. The diet was also seemed very healthy based on my visits to the various markets and grocery stores.

Needless to say, Hong Kong is not perfect. Because of the small area for the city, traffic congestion is terrible even with a good mass transit system. Some days between the humidity and auto exhaust, people cannot see across the harbor. The city is very crowded and expensive and while I enjoyed my short visit, I would not want to live there full-time.

As an outside visitor, I noticed and was impressed by the airport and the train and metro system, the cleanliness of the city, the customer service and the general vibrancy.

During the 24 hours that it took me to fly back to Annapolis, I found myself asking  how our country will compete with and learn to co-exist with China and other Asian countries? China has the ability to do anything it chooses to do right now because of its financial and human resources. It seems that in the US we spend so much time fighting each other over various ideological issues that I wonder if anyone is paying attention to what the countries in Asia are doing. I think our days of domination through force are limited and we may want to think about how we will co-exist with countries that have more people and money than we do. If I had children, I would want them to study Mandarin because the Chinese children are learning English. It also seems that China has become a student of the positive attributes of capitalism and the US way of doing business. We may want to spend some time learning about them; I know my eyes have been opened to the East.

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2 Comments:

Daniel said...

The US had a GDP that is still about 3 times the size of China depending on whose data one uses. Our GDP per capita advantage (or disadvantage if you want to open a low wage factory) is 6-8 times greater. As for political infighting, which would you prefer a totalitarian regime or a democracy? Hong Kong is really not "China".

Paul Foer said...

to Daniel--Thanks...please follow the blog's policy and identify yourself next time you wish to post thanks

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