Today is number 1,000. Where were you on August 4th, 2005? How have you changed since? Did I play a part in your life? Hopefully nicely remembered.
China teaches. Everyday I soaked up and learned. I discovered things in me that were long forgotten. I watched China, the USA, Sun Microsystems, and other companies and institutes. I smiled, I laughed, I sighed, and, many times, I found myself almost in tears.
Things are happening here with such epidemic boldness. Billions, BILLIONS of people are marching to quiet orders and shaping the earth with forces this world has never experienced before. Clearly, the world does not know how to deal with China. I don't think China does either. March on, nevertheless.
The poor touched me the most. A young man told me that his parents paid for his 4 years of college. Each year cost 3 times their total annual income as rural farmers. After he "made it" in Beijing, he bought 2 houses: one for his own family and another for his elderly parents. He told me that he will never be able to pay them back. I agreed whole-heartedly. Another told me about his college friend who eats only one meal a day. He has 500 yuans to live by every month. When inflation drove up the cafeteria meal to 15rmb (2 dollars), he cannot afford 2 meals anymore. I thought of him whenever I ordered from Starbucks.
I found Chinese entrepreneurs emancipated. For every bureaucratic inefficiency, there is an entrepreneur offering services. For every cent of arbitrage difference, there is a business exploiting it. For every profit margin, there is a hard-working person earning it. Government tries to keep up with infra-structure build-up and found capacity soaked up instantaneously. China will be fully enterprised in a decade or two. The profiting model will then change from "vacuum filling" (claiming a segment as the 1st arriver) to "competitive advantage" (trying to out-do existing players). I am curious to observe the transition then.
I pondered long on the struggle of foreign enterprises, very few did well here. Root causes seem mundane and obvious: they have been inflexible, ignorant, and arrogant. Enterprises tried to import value systems with assumptions: they are poor and therefore must not know better, they are different and therefore must be inferior, they are inexperienced and therefore must be weaker. Educated will see the stupidity of these assumptions, yet corporations repeat them years after years while Chinese are agreeing with them all the way to the bank.
Everything is possible, nothing is easy. Cliché on the lives in China, yet so true. Getting a driver's license, for example, is definitively a blog-worthy topic. Most people resigned to the arbitrary, tedious, and ever-changing bureaucratic processes. For thousands of years, China governs more with processes and less with laws. In fact, the passage of a law means very little until the publication of implementation specifics. The adage "there is a counter-measure for every policies" (上有政策，下有对策) refers to the commonality of law circumvention and a reflection of the chasm between the legal systems and the reality. In China, people spend a large percentage of their attention and resources to circumvent out-dated laws and regulations creatively to get things done. Westerners gasp and Chinese just smile.
Personal milestones happened during these 1000 days too. My mother passed away, a niece married, my 2nd kid thrust me into empty-nester's club, and I re-bonded with childhood buddies. I guess milestones always happen, but China marks a distinct period for these 1000 days. I have been thinking of how to harvest from the learnings more and more these days. This means this phase will be winding down and the next will start soon. A few years from now, I will look back to see another distinct 1000-day period.