So far my impressions on this last long business trip for 2008 have been mixed. While you can read and hear quite a lot of bad economic news, such as closure of 50% of manufacturing facilities for toys or clothes in Shenzhen and other areas, Shanghai gives the impression of business as usual. In the telecom industry, the introduction of a third operator, China Telecom, alongside China Mobile and China Unicom, was yet another smart move by the Chinese authorities (in Shanghai they are called Shanghai Mobile, Shanghai Unicom and Shanghai Telecom). It will lead to even more investment, as well as making the operators more quality- and service-oriented, as consumers have more choice now. Still, people I talked to are pessimistic, and expect real problems still to come. One consultant from the Waigaoqiao business district whose job it is to attract direct foreign investment sees clear signs of less activity now, and even less in 2009.
Then again, the Chinese government has cash in hand like no other nation in the world, and has already announced it will be using part of it for an economic stimulus package. Moreover, in Shanghai’s financial district, Pudong, China’s third major high-rise project was kicked off yesterday, signaling to the world “business goes on…”. Along with the Jinmao and World Financial Towers, there will in a few years be an even higher (600+ m) skyscraper. So China continues to think big, even in somewhat troubled times. It is also moving on to produce its own high-tech products; this time you were able to read and see on TV about the first China-produced passenger jet trial flight out of Shanghai, the 33m-long Xiang Feng (Flying Phoenix).
ARJ21 has already received 208 orders and is planned to ship in 18 months. In this industry, too, China is determined to become a tough competitor like ZTE and Huawei became in the telecom industry with combined orders now of 49 bln USD in 2008.