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Saturday, September 20, 2003

How Fast is Fast in China?

I am receiving mails from a friend of Bonobo in China. Lets call him 'Dusty'. Now Dusty works as a software developer for a big B2B portal in Hangzhou, China. But is you want to get an idea of how fast things are moving in China, take a look at how he started out in life. I come from the UK. My father was born in poverty, my son is now at the frontier. This has taken 100 years. In Dusty's case the change has happened in 30. Europe, take note.

I was born in a county close to Kashger, named Shache, but I am not Xinjiang native Uigur people as my parents went to Xinjiang during Culture Revolution, so all the children were born there in my family except for my eldest brother, who was born in zhejiang, my father’s hometown, my mothere is from Shanghai.

It was really poor and hard time when I was a child, but that was true during that time everwhere in china, as far as I remember the chinese new year was the happiest moment for child, as for many familes, that was probably the only time for a kid to get new clothes, I was no exception too.There are five children in my family, I am the fourth one, there was no ONE CHILD POLICY at that time, so for a big family, in a hard time(the whole country), children are kind of victims, my eldest brother never had too much education because of poverty, and my elder brother and sister suspended their schooling also as the reason of poverty, but I think I was a little bit luckier than they were at that time. At least I did not suspend my education without any reasons.

My father was kind of educated person in Shache at that time, as he had middle school education, and there are a few chinese living in that county, and he worked in a construcion company as a designer, it was kind of stated owned company, I somehow remebered his monthly salary was about 30 or 40 RMB(chinese currency) at that time(1970’s), I don’t know the currency exchange rate at that time, but that does not matter, people could buy one Kilogram pork with 0.4 RMB, and my annual fee for the primary school was about 5 RMB, parents would spend 2 RMB for a kid on new clothes once or twice a year.

We all lived in bungalow in Xinjiang, because of arid in desert area, we did not worry rain, so the house was build with mud or just mud brick, simple house, but cheap rent for 10 RMB every month. Almost all my neighbours were Uigurs, all of the familes were very poor, they did not have stable work, except few worked for the government, but Uigur people are talented in trade business. I heard there were a few Uigur people selling clothings or openning resturents etc, they could make 200,000 in early 80’s, that sounded incrediable. As from 1960 to 1982 around, china did not really change too much in my personal rememberance. At least we did not change too much in living conditions, house, food, clothes etc.

Below I reproduce a messenger chat I had with Dusty on Saturday, nothing special, except that people can now communicate accross the planet, and get first had impressions of things like SARS. Also note he cannot access my sites, normally even Bonobo and other blogspot sites are filtered. The 'information revolution' still has some way to travel in China.

routine1234: What is your impression, are things settling down now, or are there still a lot of problems after Sars?
dusty: as i saw a lot of our private companies customers grow fast
dusty: here in zhejiang
dusty: people are not as sensitive as they were one month ago
dusty: but it did affact the economy
dusty: resturants, hotels, travel business are severely damaged in two months
dusty: but recovered so fast now
routine1234: Yes, foreign trade will grow and grow. US and European companies need to outsource desperately. I saw a report that 25% of German companies are looking to outsource more since euro rise.
routine1234: Recovery, this is what I imagined. I am happy. When all comentators said growth down a lot, I argued that this might not happen because of price pressure here and speed of chinese growth.
dusty: but SARS delay some foreign business
dusty: there were a lot of buyers from outside of china in a market close here
routine1234: Yes, delay, but using internet things can continue. Bad news for airline companies. Like you and me with messenger, once you learn, things get easier and quicker.
dusty: but now none here, so there almost no foreign business now
dusty: i agreee
dusty: as a matter of fact
dusty: our company's revenue in May are marvelous good
dusty: as more and more our customers would invest money on interenet
dusty: because they can not go outside to attend the trade show, and no buyers from overseas come here at the moment
routine1234: Yes, this is it. But most of this is not necessary. Most of this business can be done more cheaply using internet. Again, like us, what you need is confidence. I can't see your face, you can't see mine, but we can get to know each other.
dusty: you are exactly right, actually i launch a simple product on the internet for this.
routine1234: This can save companies a lot of expenses, so it will happen. SARS in fact may accelerate things. You see you are already confirming my feelings.
dusty: yes, there was a accident happened in our company
dusty: one of my colleauge was confirmed of SARS, so all the staff were quarantined at home, for like 2 weeks, some of the sales could not meet customers
dusty: but this did not stop our business at all, in fact our monthly revenue broke the record , but we still feel sorry for the colleague

routine1234: I am worried that this is happening too fast, and that many people don't understand how these changes will affect them.
dusty: i agree, but technic really help to educate people, like me, so don't worry, chinese people can learn fast and not complaining too much
routine1234: No, it's the Europeans and Americans I am worrying about. We have had it too easy for too long, and now we are getting old. No pensions, production goes to China, many older Europeans don't like new technologies.
dusty: hopefully this situation will help another revolution in human histry, people have potential to invent new era
routine1234: China is four times bigger than US, when a big boat passes, little boat gets covered in water.
dusty: but we have a lot of problem here too
routine1234: People, potential. I agree. This is why people need to talk, to find new ways to live together, to solve problems.
dusty: maybe like US or Europe, with the new technical applied, more and more people will lose jobs
routine1234: But I agree, Chinese adapt quickly. 5 years ago every chinese family in Barcelona had DVD, many had computers, a lot of Europens still have neither.
routine1234: Technology can create jobs, not lose them, but we had a very unequal world. China and India are very big and growing quickly, all this will need time to find equilibrium.
dusty: east coast in china, grows fast, but most area are still developing slow
routine1234: Yes, this is the picture I have, but the physicists have a term, critical mass. Once coastal situation grows enough this will pull the rest along quite quickly I think.
dusty: i think so, if the country have the right policy in economy
routine1234: We have no idea of time scale. But remember technology goes every time quicker. 10,000 years ago agricultural revolution, 200 years ago industrial revolution, 10 years ago information revolution. And in 2010 what will we have? I don't know. But things get faster, faster.
dusty: but i am happy to see, the government invest a lot in basic infrastructure, like transportation, telecommunication
routine1234: Yes, the infrastrucure is important, it will be the future, if it is done efficiently. You still have to make transition to full market economy.
dusty: except for some major business, like bank, telecom, chem etc, the consumer business are rather market economy here
dusty: as i heard from some of my US and UK colleaugues, they think china is more capitalism in some way than western countries do
routine1234: Yea, but the infrastructure is govt. Don't get me wrong I am not ideological about this. We need good government. But looking here in Spain, many contractors work for the government. We don't need everything they build.
dusty: i agree, the infrastructure is the governmet's responsiblity , and a few chinese leaders in government is kind of stratigic think now, that is good
dusty: besides, if chinese companies' have more qualified managers, especially in marketing roles, that would be great, by the way, do you mind tell me why do you write collumns on the interenet?
routine1234: Sure, I write because I enjoy it. I am also worried about the demographic changes and their consequences. I like technology, I have always liked writing. You can find me on my site edwardhugh.net.
routine1234: Try it and let me know if you can see me?
dusty: ok, wait
routine1234: I don't do this for business.
dusty: haha, do business is not a crime, but i understand , sorry if i asked something wroing
dusty: seems does not work here, your site
routine1234: No nothing wrong, I just want you to know. Obviously business is not a crime, when people are doing business they get to know each other, the world becomes more friendly.
routine1234: can you use google?
dusty: yes
routine1234: can you see my page when you do a google search for edward hugh, try edward hugh deflation
dusty: http://edwardhugh.homestead.com/about.html
dusty: is this your site too
routine1234: yes
dusty: i can not not log onto that
routine1234: I'm sorry. Maybe one day. I will send you some things in e-mail attach.
dusty: ok

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