Several years ago, I was staying at the Westin hotel in Guangzhou, China with my wife. We were there to attend the Canton Fair and also check out the city, which has historically been the end of the Silk Road.
The history that surrounds Guangzhou is difficult for a Westerner like myself to fully understand. Where I grew up in the Los Angeles, California area, there is not much history at all. It’s rare to see a building that is older than 100 years old and there is almost zero cultural history.
Guangzhou, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Originally known as Canton, the entire region has a history that goes back thousands of years, as well as a unique language (Cantonese) and a world famous cooking style.
This deep history means that the people of Guangzhou (and the entire culture of China) have a much different perspective about progress. That’s because their timeline which they compare themselves too is enormous.
For example, in most of the United States, progress is only measured in comparison to previous accomplishments. The cities, buildings, and communities that have been built in the US are at most several hundred years old.
In China, and especially Guangzhou, progress is measured in comparison to a history that spans thousands of years. That means that the actual culture has a much more patient view of progress, as they understand that they are a small part of a much larger story.
So, like I said, my wife and I were in Guangzhou to go the Canton Fair and also attend a couple of different conferences, including one that was being held in the Weston we were staying at.
This particular conference was about investing in the province of Guangdong – the region in which Guangzhou is located. Most of the speakers were very hard to understand, as they had thick accents and I didn’t understand the majority of the topics they were discussing.
However, there was one speaker who said something that I still remember today. As he was standing at the podium, his first words were, “Look outside these windows. What do you see?”
The entire audience looked out the windows of the conference room we were in, to see a city full of buildings and lights.
The speaker then continued, “Do you know what that is?” Nobody responded.
“That’s the result of democracy not getting in the way of progress.”
Half of the audience chuckled, while the other half seemed to be repeating what he said in their head, trying to process what he meant.
However you want to interpret what he said, the progress of Guangzhou, and China as a whole over the past 20 years, is simply incredible. When the Chinese set their sites on getting something done, it usually happens.
Perhaps it’s the long-term vision of the culture? Perhaps it’s the effort that the Chinese people put into their work? Or maybe it has something to do with their communist government, that is able to funnel massive amounts of government money into enormous infrastructure projects?
Whatever it is… the reality is that China is taking enormous steps forward in expanding their empire. But, a lot of those steps aren’t as obvious as you’d think…
Here are some examples:
- China has been investing billions of dollars into US tech companies over the past several years. And they’ve been doing the same thing in Germany.
- Just this month, a private Chinese company launched their own rocket into space, which means the new space race is on.
- Chinese car manufacturer, Geely, bought the Swedish car company Volvo from Ford in 2010.
- The One Belt and One Road Initiative is set to spend $900 billion per year for the next decade. Which will give China access (and control) of a variety of strategic locations throughout the world.
These are just several examples of the larger story, which is this: China is moving forward faster than most people understand. And they are spreading their power through channels that aren’t completely apparent.
Is it pretty and perfect? No. But, it’s happening.
That’s why we’re going there in August. We want to see what is actually happening on the ground. And, of course, invest in this tidal wave of progress.