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Hello Beijing!

I‘m in China for the about eight days for work. We’re trying to better understand how people use technology around the world, and I’m in Beijing to learn a little more about this part of the globe. This is my second trip to Beijing in the past year, after visiting last December for just a few days.

The weather this time is absolutely amazing. The sky is clear and blue, with relatively little smog. Last time I visiting, I could barely see three city blocks (and it actually snowed a few days)! I spent the day visiting some of the technology shopping centers in the area. Unlike the United States, where large mega-stores like Best Buy or Circuit City are the primary places where people shot for tech goods, here there are huge multi-story malls, each with hundreds of vendors (often selling similar merchandise) that are popular places to buy the latest gadgets!

After checking out some of the shopping malls, I wandered around the Olympic Park, and got an up close view of the Bird’s Nest and saw the outside of the Water Cube. I didn’t go in either though since the Paraolympic Games were going on I needed tickets to get into the venues. I wasn’t a big fan of the Bird’s Nest design while watching the Olympics on TV, but it looks so much better in person. The entire layout of the Olympic Park looked super efficient and well-done.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprised in my visit so far is how good the overall infrastructure is in this City. From the time I walked off the airplane, to the visits to various shopping centers, restaurants and hours spent driving around….the roads, buildings and other instrastructure looked to be in amazing shape.

There are modern express highways connecting Beijing and most of the major cities throughout China, and within the city itself, the roads are in great shape. Traffic, though ever-present, seems far more orderly than what I have seen in other developing markets, or even in many developed markets! I’ve heard that the Chinese government has spent over $150 Billion over the past 10 years on building a network of modern and high speed roadways. Even more staggering, over the next 5 years, the plan is to DOUBLE the number of high speed roads across the country, linking all the major metro centers.

The city itself is full of large and shiny-new office building and ultra-modern hotels. It seems like everything here is being built over-sized, and the culture is adapting to embrace that. In fact, even the cars here tend to be on the larger sized, with people wanting more spacious vehicles, despite the space crunch and traffic problems. Many of nice restaurants are also over-sized, with large tables and high ceilings. Even the hotels are super large (e.g. my hotel has an indoor 55 meter tropical pool “lagoon” as part of its fitness spa!). It’s like the country is wearing clothes about a size too big, expecting to grow into them over the next decade!

A highlight during today’s trip was a stop at the Summer Palace. It as a very picturesque site, with ornate rooms and many buildings in a traditional Pagoda style, spread over a large expanse of land on the side of a hill, flowing down to the banks of a large lake.

Tomorrow and through the rest of the week I have business meetings, but I hope to check out some of the shopping markets (for clothes, etc.), Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square later in the week, and take a trip to the Great Wall on Saturday.