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October 1, 2009

Daniel Tschudy:A powerful show of strength as China hits 60

Meetings industry guru Daniel Tschudy looks at China’s rapid growth from Communist state to global consumer super-power, and wonder whether China’s entrance onto the world stage will be based on more than just size and quantity.

The People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded on October 1, 1949 at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. And so, this year, China is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a huge showcase National Day parade. Over 200,000 people and 8,000 vehicles will descend on Tiananmen Square, essentially shutting down the city for the day. Beijing’s airport (the busiest in the country) will also be closed during the parade, affecting nearly 200 flights, and traffic on the ring roads and main streets in downtown Beijing will be seriously handicapped. Some 10,000 residents of near-by communities are required to hold temporary passes to go in and out of their houses on that day.

As China Daily reports, one million volunteers will participate in guaranteeing security, communications and celebration activities during the Beijing celebration: a total of 800,000 volunteers will safeguard security during the three-day national holiday, another 30,000 will patrol and provide guidance and translation services in bus stations and across the subway. The remainder will work around Tiananmen Square, museums, parks and other sites of public gatherings. This will be an even larger event than the Olympics… a size that is difficult to imagine. It will be an incredible showcase of China today.

China today
But what is China today? Just a fancy economic (and military) might with lots of misunderstandings both inland and abroad? Or a 1.3billion-strong country that is trying to become a world leader? Both. On one side, China’s power is incredible, as seen in the following examples: the country has a GDP expectation of 8.5% for 2010; every day 2,000 new cars hit its streets; and 200 million travellers – more than the entire population of Brazil – will be on the road during the October national holiday (spending US$14.6 billion). And, Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president of marketing, expects that over the next 20 years, the nation will need 3,770 new airplanes.

On the other hand, China has lived the past 15 years in a development whirlwind, trying to capture what for example the US has build up in 75 years. The backlog is colossal and covers everything except military power and the communist party’s rules and proceedings. It begins with tiny little steps in communication, self-confidence and self-realisation. And it ends with large jumps in any other field – trading, science, entertainment, sports, fashion and tourism.

From Hip-hop to Adidas
The drawback is, that the Chinese are expected to ‘learn’ everything in less than two decades, and that is tricky, because it creates superficial learning – quick endorsements, quasi paint-jobs and a ‘hurry-hurry’ at all times mentality. To dance hip hop, buy foreign sneakers or have a German beer at the many Oktoberfest’s in the cities, does not mean to understand those products (their origin, history, life-story etc). It only means to consume (or copy) them.

Anyway, China is not here to help Europe or partner with the United States. China is here to take care of China, to stimulate domestic growth (the only guarantee to survive the current global crisis), to master population (growth will only stop in 2030 with then 1.46 billion inhabitants) and to learn to become a global player aiming at its own interests. China will, on its way to becoming a superpower, face the same handicap that the US has since the Second World War: its own size and power is so big that it creates a certain, almost natural, disinterest in what is happening in the world. Or, you could call it ignorance. And since open and direct communication is not a virtue of the Chinese anyway, the world will have even more difficulties dealing with China – and vice-versa. I asked the question before: is China ready for the world? And I also replied to it too: is the world ready for China? Because China, like India, is here to stay – and in a substantial way.

Efforts needed
During the past two years, I have met and seen extraordinary and truly global people both in the East and the West. It will be up to them to lead the efforts and to make sure that China’s entrance to the world is not only based on quantities (investments, trade and market shares), but hopefully on qualities as well. Qualities means understanding of history, endorsement of cultural background, acceptance of differences in opinions, and, first of all, open communication.

Happy birthday China!

Daniel Tschudy provides expert advise, in-depth consulting and educational support to the global communication, meetings and tourism industries. www.tschudy.com


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