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27 April

Today didn't go as planned so I ended up going to the CeBIT Asia trade show at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. I took a circuitous route to the venue due to my penchant for exploring new avenues of approach. On the map it looked like I could easily walk from the bus terminal to the show. Little did I know that a huge new highway interchange has been built that is not shown on my map. Once I reached it it meant that I was faced with a chioce of retracing my steps for a couple of kilometers or finding a way through the new fence that separates the highway from the old road that I had followed. I felt that others living in this area had faced the same dilema and had found a way to go onward so I looked very carefully and noticed that someone had broken down the fence at one point to provide a means of getting through. Once through I followed a convoluted system of bicycle paths to the opposite side and managed to get to the site of the show much later than expected.

One of the people I talked with was responsible for the staff in a factory and he recognized the probability that business was difficult due to the poor quality of English used at the factory when dealing with international clients. He considered the possible cost of lost business and weighed the cost to improve spoken English with a training program. I gave him a quote of what I expect the cost would be on an hourly basis to provide a training plan for the factory and also pointed out that it would be wise to coordinate the needs of his factory with other factories in the area so that the costs could be spread out by rotating a professional English consultant through an area on various days of the week with a systematic plan and verbal program. He showed a serious interest and I will follow up if I return to China with such a program.

I also had an extended conversation with a business couple from Brooklyn, New York, and listened to their stories of how difficult they have found it to communicate and do business here in China. With all the complaining that I hear from international business people, professionals and visitors, I'm surprised at how little concern and awareness there seems to be from many of the Chinese business people I have met. Perhaps the rate of flow of investment into China and the demand for Chinese goods and services is so great that the language problem is of little concern to them.

Even though the majority of the Chinese appear to be indifferent, there are so many Chinese business people that recognize the need for English improvement that it is still one of the few obvious services that can be established and expect to make a profit in this gold rush type of economic climate. As far as most of the industrial and real estate sectors are concerned the flow of capital into them reminds me of the Internet of just a few years ago where the billions of dollars that were poured into it were either lost or are still sitting on books with the hope that the profits will materialize. Likewise in this economic situation the speed of development is very feverish and large numbers of buildings for commercial, industrial and residential purposes are being constructed at a much greater pace than the rate of occupancy and are sitting either vacant or with a low utilization rate. I often wonder what program the Government of China will devise to develop the economic conditions that will provide the flow of funds needed in the general population to make the development profitable. The flow of foreign capital is great for constructing structures, but sooner or later they must be put to practical use and earn an income in order to generate the profit needed to provide the return on the investment.

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