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Posted: December 27, 2011

Sense of urgency is business as usual in China

A country seemingly not interested in the past is racing toward its future

Bart Taylor

“Be quick.”

We heard this more than once from business contacts we met in China. Our objective – to connect U.S. technology and firms with money and partners in China – met with very positive reviews. But change is the rule in China today, and the advice to move fast reflects a sense of urgency that all businesses seem to operate with there. 

For China business, now's the time. If you're not moving fast, you're being left behind. And it shows -- everywhere. Fifty years of economic growth have seemingly been compressed into 10. 

This frantic pace has created environmental challenges as you’ve heard. Forecasts of China’s ecological collapse are perhaps overstated, but not by much.  As I’ve written, renewable energy development and cleantech are supported there by necessity. 

Not so in the U.S. The commitment here lacks by comparison. Investors are hesitant as a result. (Read Michele Chandler’s Planet-Profit Report story.) The implications are debatable, of course, but for U.S. firms looking for money and markets, opportunity may be elsewhere. U.S. companies with good technology and patience to form solid partnerships can prosper in China.

Patience – and good connections. If you’re interested, we can help.  

Final thoughts:

For a news and information junkie like me, China’s tight grip on media was annoying, if not a big issue. My favorite online resources were always a click away.  You’d be out of luck though if Facebook and YouTube are your go-to sites. And Google access is spotty, the result I guessed of an acrimonious relationship with Chinese authorities.

In today’s China, it’s hard to see how a more open media environment poses the same existential threat today as its leaders once thought. China’s young, urbane, educated population is on a mission – one that has little or nothing to do with ideology. They’ve tasted the fruits of a market economy (yes, a socialist-market-economy), have a firm grip on the modern world, and it’s inconceivable to me they’ll let it go. 

We met two young journalists working for media owned and operated by the government. They were knowledgeable, sharp and dealing with the same issues U.S. journalists are in finding a foothold in a changing media world. We were in the offices of state-owned China Daily when news of Kim Jong Il’s death came across the wire. End of meeting. As in any newsroom, a flurry of activity ensued.

The one major difference? China Daily’s morning-after headline: “A Friend’s Departure.”

For me China was also a land of contradictions, considering where it’s been and how fast it’s going in the opposite direction. 

We’re taught here that Mao is a revered figure in China, but my observation was that he’s a serious afterthought in Beijing and certainly in Shanghai – ignored, really – by those who blame him for holding back China from its rightful place on the world stage or those who simply find him to be irrelevant.  

Deng Xiaoping is a more complex historical figure here, but in my conversations seemed to evoke similar ambivalence – he the man who set China on a path to economic reform. But to some, his legacy is tainted by Tiananmen Square in 1989, though even today his role in ordering the Army into Beijing is unclear.  

China: thousands of years old, the leading world-power on several occasions throughout history, now with a young population with very little collective interest, seemingly, in the past. 

Hopefully we’ll be back this spring – to continue to build bridges between the two most influential nations on the world stage.  

 

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Bart Taylor is the publisher of ColoradoBiz magazine. E-mail him at btaylor@cobizmag.com.

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