Our breakfast briefing at Reed Smith LLP, a leading legal firm in Shanghai, on China’s Legal Climate and Challenges for Foreign Invested Capital was a learning experience. China’s government’s stimulus package of about $650 billion has worked in ways that America’s hasn’t. A few differences: China put on 2nd and 3rd shifts on construction projects to get more people working; it got banks to really lend to businesses; and it distributed prepaid debit cards to people in areas of high unemployment quickly to infuse cash into the economy. Of course, it’s easier to accomplish these tasks when the government’s state-owned businesses are about 60% of the economy. Yet, who would have imagined that private enterprise controls about 40% of the economy even 10 years ago?
I climbed the great wall of China. Okay I climbed only a very small part at Juyong Guan pass. The mountains on either side of this pass jut towards the sky. With snow on the ground and the steps climbing was very tricky. A few people in our group made it all the way to the top of the pass where some of the “steps” were more than 30 inches high. Coming down was harder than going up and the wind was wicked. It gave me a sense of respect for the Chinese people who built most of this wall in the 14th to 16th centuries during the Ming dynasty as a protection from the Mongols to the north. In fact it gave me respect for the Chinese people who restored it in the 1980s.
We also visited the Ming Tombs and the Hall of Eminent Favor, which has been made into a museum containing some artifacts from the one tomb that was excavated and an impressive statue of Yongle, the 3rd Ming Emporer. But the most impressive part of the building is the construction. The roof is supported by 40 foot-tall cedar columns that are more than 12 feet in circumference at the bottom. The tombs were built in this area because the ridge of mountains protects the area on 3 sides and keeps the evil spirits carried on the north wind away from the area.
We had dinner tonight at a banquet hall with about 200 other Chamber executives from the U.S., Norway, Bermuda, and Great Britain. Some Chinese officials from the Ministry of Culture joined us. We were greeted upon arrival by dragon and lion dancers and entertained by a trio of musicians that played “Oh, Susannah” and “Red River Valley” on erhu (a two-stringed violin). I think I may be experiencing culture shock. Most of the other Chamber execs are here to see and experience China, but are not part of our Ford Foundation Fellowship group. They have more time for sightseeing and shopping, but I’m so glad to be able to participate in the discussions and workshops being presented.
Back to the hotel to pack. We have to be out of the hotel at 5 a.m. tomorrow to catch the 7:30 flight to Shanghai.