Our last day in China was planned from the outset to be a free day...
our first since arriving two and a half weeks ago. We had a lazy
morning, then met a venture finance colleague of mine, who had
recently relocated to Shanghai, for lunch at an excellent dumpling
restaurant in a trendy area of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and
galleries called Xintiandi. It reminded us of Quincy Market in
Boston, which was, my colleague told us, not unsurprising: it was
designed by an architect who also worked on Quincy Market.
My colleague's fund has a number of investments in Shanghai startups,
one of which is doing a high-profile IPO and another of which, at the
same time, is going out of business... so he is a busy guy at the
moment. It was interesting to hear his description of the business
world in China: in a word, cut-throat. The winding down of the
second company shouldn't affect the IPO of the first -- VCs always
have companies that are going out of business, it's the nature of the
game -- but in China such a thing if it became known would be seized
on by competitors of the company doing the IPO to cast doubt upon its
financial viability and motives for going public... and this, whether
logical or not, might spook potential investors. So, after lunch he
left to do some dancing on eggs.
Afterwards Madeleine and Lidia wandered around Xintiandi and
Tianzifang (another similar area), while I weighed the alternatives of
doing some more sightseeing, or going back to the hotel and reading
and finishing up blogging the trip. No prize for guessing which
alternative won out :-).
Around 8PM the intrepid shoppers showed up, having (as they had pre-
announced) bought very little, their goal having been to see what was
fashionable in Shanghai and to get a better feel for the city.
Shortly thereafter Bella arrived to shepherd us to the maglev train to
the airport, which we had decided to take in preference to the
minivan. The fastest train in the world, the maglev takes under seven
and a half minutes to go 30km from the outskirts of Shanghai to Pudong
airport, hitting a top speed of 431kph (268mph). It was
simultaneously exciting and underwhelming, since, as I had sort of
expected, you can't really appreciate the speed from the train,
particularly at night.
The formalities were handled quickly and efficiently, and after a
dinner of noodles and fried rice in the business class lounge, at
11:40PM our plane took off for the eleven and a half hour night flight
back to Munich. Our Chinese trip was over.
I'm a little zonked as I write this, a few hours after getting home
after the night in the plane, so I'm not going to try to draw any deep
conclusions or to generate brilliant insights at this time (unlikely,
I'll grant you, even when I'm not zonked!). I'll just give my spur of
the moment response to the question I posed, and gave an interim
answer to, before Xi'an: would I come back to China again? And the
answer is (Madeleine is going to love this): yes and no. I didn't
really have any negative experiences, other than finding the poverty
and grime off-putting, so I would feel quite comfortable going back to
China, but I don't feel like I either have to or particularly want
to. On the one hand, I had enough positive experiences, particularly
in Xian, Chongqing and Shanghai, to outweigh the initial negative
impressions of Beijing and Shanxi, but on the other there was nowhere
I fell in love with, nothing which I really want to see or experience
again. I'm glad I went, it was thought-provoking, I saw some
beautiful things, and many interesting things, but given a week to
spend in Paris (or London, or the Alps, or northern Italy...) or a
week to spend in China, I'd go to Paris.