Sunday, November 11, 2012

China: Seeing It As Entrepreneur 30 years after First Trip for Fortune 500

 China: Seeing It As Entrepreneur 30 years after First Trip for Fortune 500

How 21st Century Could be China’s Century If America Doesn’t Play it Right…

This true story ends with a video link to what it’s like to ride the 430 KPH “MagLev” into Shanghai Airport –the fastest train in the world. 

I made this trip just before the Presidential election to compare the China I encountered  in 1982 --as one of the first negotiators in China for large American companies after President Nixon had opened the door -- versus China NOW.  How does China NOW compare to America’s Technology position NOW – and more importantly --WHAT do we need to do to stay ahead?

Let's start with a "before" and "after" shot. The first photo is me on Tiananmen Square in 1982 -- during a weekend break in our negotiations on pollution control equipment for their power plants. I was 32, so yes, I was one of the youngest negotiators right after Nixon had opened the doors to China to American companies.  Notice the EMPTY boulevard behind me. In the distance you see two buses.

Now for the "After" photo. The next one is me, age 62, at the same intersection on Tiananmen Square in October 2012. I couldn't reach the same side of the street because it was blocked by 20 lanes of CARS...and a military parade. Notice the street is NOT EMPTY. We sat in traffic jams all over China.

In October I went back to China exactly 30 years after my first trip there in 1982 as a young attorney for a Fortune 500 company. Ironically I was there in 1982 to negotiate a license for American pollution control technology for their coal fired power plants – to keep the nasty coal ash out of the emissions.  We were competing with two European companies for the contract.
Stunning is the best description of the changes.

Next 2 Photos Below: I am standing in the middle of an empty Tienanmen Square street in 1982 -- in the middle of the day no less! Buses and bicycles was all they had. Photos by Michael Fjetland

 Photo BELOW: China's streets 2012. Notice a DIFFERENCE? Forget $2 oil...Between China and India's growth, oil will continue to be a finite, dwindling resource as China alone adds 170 Million MORE cars the next 5 Years! It's already the Largest Car Market in the World.

The contrast between China then and now blew me away --and I've seen nearly 50 countries the last three decades.  In 1982 it was a world of bicycles and everyone wore the same blue shirt and pants and made $30 a month (photos on the blog site).  If I had stepped off the street at the wrong moment and I would have been run over by a million bicycles in 1982.

Next Photo: Transportation in 1982, in Beijing, China...Photo and caption by Michael Fjetland

 Photo below: Transportation in 2012. The 265 mph "MagLev" train - Fastest in the World. Photo by Michael Fjetland. All Rights Reserved.

In 2012, had I stepped off the curb at the wrong moment, I would have been run over by a million CARS – and no one would have stopped!

China is today the largest car market in the world. It will add 170 MILLION more cars the next 5 years! All of them will need even more scarce gasoline – so the notion of $2 gas is a fantasy. China already pays $6 gallon today! American cars are No. 3 in their market. Japan is No. 1.

Photo below: Beijing Buildings 1982 - Plain jane buildings...old Soviet style blocks really. That's THEN.
Compare to NOW. 2012 Photo below: IBM building in Beijing - They call it the "Dragon Head" building...Photos by Michael Fjetland. All Rights Reserved.
 Photo below: 2012 Shanghai "Bund" - Amazing architecture...

I noticed that as we sat in traffic jams from Beijing to Shanghai to Suzhou to Hangzhou that the Bullet Trains would FLY BY so fast that by the time I got my camera turned on, the bullet was already GONE. I never did get a photo of a moving bullet train one for that reason.

But I did take a 7 minute video of the most amazing 7 minutes riding at 430 kph (265 miles per hour!) on the fastest train in the world – Shanghai’s “MagLev” train that hovers over the track and is as smooth as silk at 265 miles per hour. The cars we passed appear to be flying backwards! Here is the 7 minute video link to that:

Photo: MagLev, up close with author, Michael Fjetland October 2012. Love these digital cameras. Note the reflection in the MagLev's windows....SMOOTH. A glass of water would not have rippled during the whole thing. And the way we passed cars was STUNNING and COOL...

Frontal video of MagLev coming into station (21 seconds)

THAT is the competition America faces in this high tech, global 21st century – where the winner is not the one with the biggest military but the country with the best technology and education system to support it. 

I lost count of building cranes that I saw on hundreds of buildings under construction all over China. Chinese are doing what AMERICANS used to do – invest, build, and educate to a higher standard of living.

Americans need to go see countries like China for themselves – compare the Chinesenew buildings to their old one; compare their fast trains to our slow one; compare their teaching their kids English while  barely speak English ourselves and let bridges fail in disrepair and don’t invest in maintenance and expansion of our road.  Cities like Houston and states like Texas will double in size the next couple decades ahead.  
Above Photo: My hotel in Shanghai, the Renaissance 2012

We can’t afford not  to plan ahead if we are to succeed.
Above Photo: How I (left) and my Chinese friends Lily and Dashan dressed in 1982 (note the hush puppies). Dashan was the interpreter for the Chinese Ministry negotiating our technology license.

Above Photo: How Chinese dress in 2012. We came across a Chinese wedding at one of our dinners...

If  people get out of their silos and see the real world for themselves perhaps Americans and our Congress would wake up from their delusions and realize that we need to play a smart strategic global game to win this space age race.  The next frontier really is where few humans have gone before.

China will launch yet another manned space flight in the next few months. They will have a brand new Space Station when the ISS is 20 years old and due for retirement. There are over 40 countries now competing in space. How does this make us leaders in technology – and staying power? China is also leading in green energy production while half our Congress remains committed to old technologies as outdated as the horse and buggy was when the automobile came along.
Above: China already has first module of this space station in orbit. Completion date: 2020 - when the ISS is scheduled for retirement!  No ISS 2 planned, which could leave China as only power with new Space Station!

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Michael’s story of unique experiences in countries like China in the 80's was kept as journals and published in “Better Times Ahead: April Fool” Links:

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