They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Beijing doesn’t need a second chance. The first word that comes to mind to describe China is 'impressive.'
My wife Kelly and I arrived a day earlier than most of the FPA delegation that is traveling in China for a week-long educational exchange with Chinese financial planners [see AdvisorOne FPA in China home page for more coverage of the trip and China news and anlysis], giving us a chance to get acquainted with Beijing. Even before entering the capital city, however, we were impressed. We connected in Guangzhou where the airport is a mind-blower. China has become a hotbed for innovative architectural designs and this spectacle is on full display at the country’s major airports. Man has been trying to impress others by building bigger for centuries but the Chinese have taken this to a whole new level.
Many Americans think this ‘build it big’ approach was spurred by the 2008 Beijing Olympics and this is partially true. However, they’ve been at this a long time. The gates to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are simply massive – fitting for the home of the Son of Heaven, as the Emperor was known. They were designed to impress and intimidate and they succeed. Today, everywhere you go in Beijing you find buildings with jaw-dropping visual impact.
In order to get a sense of the real Beijing, we enlisted the help of Brad Greer, an FPA member and software developer who lives about an hour from Beijing when not back home in Albuquerque. He took us for some lunch, to a couple of markets, and taught us how to navigate the subway. The cultural differences between the States and Beijing take some getting used to.
[See a 2008 presentation by Greer to the FPA Asian Pacific Focus Group on wealth management in China.]