Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Glitch O Rama

I’m starting to make final arrangements for my holiday to the US.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip in China without a glitch or two.  This is a country where glitches abound.
The first glitch is that the bus we take to Hong Kong has changed its departure time.  It used to leave at 8:30 am and arrive at dinnertime.  We would shower, enjoy a great seafood dinner, and shop for gifts at the Night Market.  The new schedule has it leaving at 11:30 at night.  That way we can get a poor night’s sleep, arrive at 7:30 am and enjoy a morning of hauling baggage around one of the most crowded cities on the planet, in sweltering summer heat until our hotel room becomes available.
There are two other options.  The first is to fly to Hong Kong.  This is an expensive, one hour flight from an airport that boasts an extremely high cancellation rate, and commonly has flight delays of 3 to 6 hours. 
The third option, the one we will opt for, is a day bus ride to Shenzhen, the Chinese city that borders Hong Kong, and take the train into the city.  This is more work than I would like, but at least we will get there at a decent time—when all the cross border commuters will be returning to Hong Kong!!
Zhanjiang is a rapidly developing city.  It's been designated a major economic development zone by the Chinese Government.  It has an excellent natural deep water port which is being developed to its full potential.  There is a joint Kuwaiti/Chinese oil refining venture.  There is a major steel mill being built.  There are rail lines being built, and dozens of high rises going up everywhere.  There will be a new airport.  They are inviting foreign investment and companies to locate here.
In the meantime, it is still in many ways a Third World city.  The airport and air service would be an embarrassment to any American town with over 100,000 people, and this city has 7 million.  The one bus to Hong Kong only goes in the middle of the night because the company only uses one bus.  Of course it would never break down!
Real estate prices here, like in the rest of the country have skyrocketed.  Even professional people are hard pressed to be able to afford the purchase price.  When you look at the finished, new apartment buildings at night you see very few lights on.  The buildings are devoid of residents.  I know that some apartments have been purchased by investors, which has led to the high prices, but I'm not sure anyone is buying now.
The fees from these major construction projects are a main source of revenue for cities in China.  The money is to go toward city services and infrastructure projects.  What is curious about this city is that you see very few improvements.  Busy intersections have no traffic signals, potholes abound, and things remain generally seedy.  Where does the money go?  Hmmm.
I have heard from some locals that many of the investors of these shell buildings are the same people responsible for running the place.  Hmmmm.
The world is impressed with China.  Foreign journalists go to shiny places like Shenzhen and Shanghai and see lots of cool things happening!  They write about how awesome the Chinese economic juggernaut is.  But I wonder how much of the prosperity and advancement here is real, and how much of it is like the shell apartment buildings.  How can a city that is touting its progress and booming economy only have one night bus and sporadic flights to the nearby economic center of Asia?  It's not a Third World country, it's an "emerging" country.  The emergence is going to be a long one, and some things emerge quickly, some are not emerging at all, and some are submerging.  Glitches abound!! A curious place.

1 comment:

  1. I was reading an article just a couple of weeks ago that said that the empty apartments were a direct result of their being very few places for the average worker to invest their money: http://brontecapital.blogspot.com/2012/06/macroeconomics-of-chinese-kleptocracy.html

    It's a fairly interesting read.


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