Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Back from China

Last week I was in Liaoning province in Northeastern China. This part of China is called Dongbei. I was in the old industrial capital with a lot of history. The old name is Mukden and I visited the home of an old warlord near the imperial palace. The home of the young marshall and his equally well-known warlord father who was killed by the Japanese officers of the Kwangtung army of Manchuria. During my week-long stay, I listened to Napoleon Hill's classic book 'Think and Grow Rich.' It seemed to be a fitting book to read while looking at the old architecture of the city which seemed close to art-deco style although there were a lot of modern building as well.

Hill's book speak of old virtues which hark back to an earlier time as he speaks of his meetings with Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford. So it was fitting to listen to this timeless classic while running in a treadmill in the hotel's gym while looking across the street at the old building. I believe some of these building were built during the time Hill's book was written. The factory also was of an old design which seemed at odds with the newer modern parts of the city. I listened to the audio book while exercising in the morning. The meetings went well where I tried to send out summaries of the day's meeting to keep the team engaged.

I also met old friends who I worked with in the past. I also saw an old colleague and we had dinner on our last night. We went to a disco where I had a first hand glimpse of the future of China. The disco was filled with very young people who were enjoying themselves. It was filled also with people from other countries and their exuberance and freedom seemed to be at odds with the totalitarian regime and dire surroundings of some city parts. But the city seems to be rising again as the old state-owned industrial companies were sold to foreign companies like my own. So there has been a sort of rebirth with new investments coming in the old industrial centers.

It was an interesting week where we had a lot of meeting with the local project team. In the last day we also attended a phone conference with people from Thailand, Singapore and Shanghai, China. I also met frequently by phone with our software consultant from France. It was a good week with a lot of challenges. In the evening, I sometimes walk around the streets around the hotel looking for the old places where we used to go. A phrase echoed in my mind as I walked around: you return to the place where you came from and discover the place anew. Funny phrase as I always like this city and it seemed to represent China more than the other cities I have been.

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