Back and forth to meetings today I continue to marvel at the changes in Beijing. I have been coming once a year and sometimes twice for the past seven or eight years and in that time China has become the second largest economy in the world, witnessed the largest migration of people in the world and lifted tens of millions out of poverty. Before the Olympics it seemed as if the entire city was under construction with billions of dollars of new infrastructure and cranes by the hundreds manned by hundreds of thousands of workers. The first time here, when I walked down the main street, Chang’an it was still enough of an oddity to see a westerner that people gawked, took pictures and came up to me to welcome me to China.
How things have changed. The frenzy of the pre-Olympics has subsided, and it is as if Beijing has become comfortable with itself and its place as a global city. Fashionable pedestrians are more concerned with rushing to work or buying the latest version of a smart phone to notice the scores of westerners who are on the street. Eight years ago one had to search to find a western restaurant other than the fast food chains and on the block immediately around my hotel there are dozens of “ethnic” restaurants most of which are not Chinese.
I have had two days of blue skies, the first I have seen in my time here, indicative of much tighter regulations on large belching industries which used to be in the city. Most have been modernized and moved from the capital as it builds science and innovation parks to compete as a global leader.
No country has witnessed such rapid economic growth and mass movements of citizens. The experiment is not without huge issues and the final chapter of the book called Chinese capitalism is not yet written. It has been a huge education to witness some of the transition first hand and to be able to incorporate it into teaching of the CBU MBA.
Many hundreds of Chinese students have studied and are studying at CBU broadening their horizons and learning about our version of capitalism and society. If we could now convince Canadian students to come here to study and learn they too could help write part of the book which will be the future relationship between Canada and China.