I was in China during the month of April, in 2010, and had the opportunity to know some of the culture and way of life of the Chinese people. What you will read next is purely my impressions after this experience.
People – The people are very friendly. An occidental guy gets a lot of attention, anywhere in China, mainly out of the biggest cities, but that’s not uncomfortable, at least I have never felt bad because of that. It is common to be greeted on the street, or approached in the supermarket, and even feels like a movie star during a visit in any typical place. The challenge is really the language, that’s tough! Because of the big difference between English and Chinese, sometimes I felt like a deaf-mute (see the bus stop totem picture on the left). Out of Shanghai, was not easy to find someone speaking English, neither at the hotel. Only at the company I was working for, I could find some English speakers. Another interesting point, I have never felt unsafely in China. Even walking at night, from railway station to the hotel, never had problems with regards safety.
Food – I have enjoyed the food, even though it’s spicy, I had not issues with that. I did not find the food so different from what I am used to eat: rice, meat, chicken, fish, vegetables… Instead, some snacks, usually offered on streets (for example, some small animals fried) which I have tasted, are a bit different. Of course, it’s an experience to prove it, but you might not like it (see the picture below).
Commerce – It’s quite impressive how people buy all day long. The commerce usually opens the doors at 8:00h in the morning and goes hot until close at 22:00h (see the picture below). It is easy to understand the phenomenon of the growth of China’s economy, when we realize that besides the huge export market (since China is the world’s largest exporter, representing about 27% of its GDP, Brazil exports represent approx. 11% of GDP, and USA about 10%, according to CIA estimates for 2011), China has a huge and highly consuming domestic market. Even in the holidays they opened the commerce, banks, etc.
Allied with strong consumption, China has one of the highest rates of investment; and you can easily see a lot of evidences of the investment from the Government, like new roads, railways working and being built, overpasses, airports, ports, etc. According to the data from CIA for 2010, investment in China was 47.8% of GDP, while in Brazil, 18.5% of GDP, and the USA, 12.8%. Thus, with high consumption and high investment, and production following consumption, the result ends up being a high growth economy.
Industry – There is a joke that I heard from some Chinese guys that says: If it exists, you can find it in China. Now a day, Chinese people have a lot of opportunities, much more than years ago, to choose for a job in the industry. I was told by the local administrator in the Company, that it was not difficult people left the job because of another offer. It is intense the industry activity, but, at the same time, they face an energy issue, and they have to respect some limits using the electricity, since the balance in China is very small (see the chart below).
According to the CIA (2013 est.), the Industry represents 43,9% of GDP in China, 26,9% in Brazil, and 19,5% in USA.
The low-cost labor in China (well known advantage) is tending to increase, because of the high demand, and the middle/high cost of equipments tends to decrease. The quality of Chinese products, in general, is getting better and better, because of the use of equipments on the process, the partnership with occidental companies, and the high demand associated with the learning curve.
Despite of the electricity issue, the transportation in China works well, and the infrastructure is helpful, making Chinese suppliers reduce lead times because of good roads, rail roads, ports, airports, etc. Even though I have already heard about issues in this area, I believe that China is in a good shape. Of course, considering the high growth of the country, there is room for improvements.
My 30 days stay in China was awesome and remarkable, and left a general impression that China is a great country, culturally rich, good destiny to work, and good as well to travel.