And we've been to China too...
For many of us, who chose the China Symposium as the international elective, this was one of the definitive highlights of the year.
The symposium itself was 5 days long, held between 9th and 13th June in Shanghai, and all sorts of expat and Chinese business professionals and also journalists talked about doing business in China. We had people from Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Siemens Medical, Tomkins, ENO and many others, a really diverse range of fields.
I think we all know, at least to some extent, about the issues in China: the influence of politics is everywhere. The Chinese version of Capitalism is building rapidly and in a way it was very interesting to hear from a banker working for Deutsche Bank about Private Wealth Management i.e. the exponentially growing wealth of a very small group. Pretty much similar as everyone else in the world for the same state of economic development, I'd think, although the scale is different.
What was the most interesting to me and made me think - every once in a while even since then - when the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Shanghai Daily talked about the press in China. Even if he tried to avoid a few areas in his speech, in the Q&A there was no chance to escape. He had to answer straight questions about how they dealt with the non-existing free press and the governmental influence. I was really impressed with him trying to get his message across without explicitly saying 'inappropriate' things. He finished his speech with the following: 'Everything I told you was completely true. But look online and you will see a different China'.
And now to the fun part: a few of us thought that while there, why not go to Hong Kong before Shanghai and to Beijing after? So we did.
Flying 15 hours to arrive in Hong Kong on the 6th June in the middle of the pouring tropical rain and to start discovering the best venues. We spent 2 days in HK and then flew off to Shanghai to the official Cass programme.
Having to attend the sessions every morning didn't stop anyone from going out every night, eating scorpions, haggling and you name it, but the lack of sleep started to catch up on some by the end of the week.
It wasn't over yet though as visiting Beijing was the last leg of our tour. Another 2.5 days on the Great Wall and in the Forbidden City and the last night having dinner in a teppanyaki restaurant which was great - apart from the fact that the Japanese waitresses being in China spoke no English. At all.
It was just amazing. Good days.