We arrived in Shanghai sunday evening at 7:30 after a long hectic flight on United Air. We met my dad’s friends for dinner at a dimsum restaurant called Star City. Afterwards we met up with 2 of my closest Shanghai Expatriate friends, Victoria & Albert. We met at “Hsin Tien Di”, which translates to New Heaven Earth. An outdoor shopping/restaurant area that resembles The Grove in West Hollywood. European and American style cafe’s line up the street as trendy Expats & tourists flood the scene. We decided on starting with a few drinks at Brown Sugar. To our luck, it was live Jazz & Latin night. I took my 17 year old sister with me as there is no real legal age here enforced.
Shanghai: The Land of Opportunities
The energy was nothing less than vibrant & colorful. I would realize days later that this would be the mood in all of this modern Metropolis called Shanghai. About 5 other expats met us there, and I would learn that all the expats hang out together. The extended network includes 50 or so of these American-Born Chinese and Taiwanese people in their 20’s who have now moved to Shanghai, land of opportunities. Many of them are from Maryland, California & Texas. They have all left the American life behind (anywhere from 1 year to 10 years ago) in search of more economic opportunities and capital growth in a booming economy which is way more promising than the US. It’s funny how our Chinese parents left their country 30 years ago for a better opportunity. And now many are going back to the motherland for the same reason.
America in the Midst of the Recession and Uncertain Times
The American economy is now (2011) is in a deep recession. It’s incredibly depressing for those who graduated from college half a decade ago and are barely able to build their careers. What’s even more depressing is the middle-aged individuals who have lost their jobs and homes. None of us can really predict if and when the economy will pick back up. And if so, will it ever be back to the “good ol’ days?”
Some of these expats have family in Asia and are continuing on the family Business (old money). Some are starting fresh with opportunities given by their current American companies to expand business development in Shanghai, the new land of opportunities. And most popular are individuals with entrepeneural ideas not yet saturated in the West who are bringing it to the east. You could do just about anything and find a niche here. Many have gone to big cities like Dubai as well.
On the flipside, if you have money, my friend said, “You can easily get away with murder here.”
Meeting this group of expats really brought some fresh energy to the otherwise staleness I’ve been breathing the past few years in America. I choose not to blame my fellow classmates & colleagues for their slow lost of faith in our economy. The American recession caused a high unemployment rate and barely any hope for College graduates. Even those with Master’s graduates who struggle to find jobs since 2008. Why hire when they can outsource?
Shanghai is what America was 50 Years Ago
Shanghai is what America was 50 years ago. What Hong Kong was 20 years ago. China is now the “Land of Opportunities” which America has once been called, as far as business expansion and a potential of limitless income. Though China is still known to be a “communist country”, if it is still in tact, it refers only to the poor and middle-class. For the wealthy and educated, China is pure capitalism.
Especially if you can speak Chinese, this land is yours to prosper. In social aspects of the Chinese government and lifestyle, in regards to human rights, freedom of individuality, etc – it is clearly lacking behind. But if your focus is on making cheddar, to build a new idea, Shanghai is where it’s at.
“China Will be the Future”, my Parents Use to Tell Me
I remember growing up in my household and being forced to attend Chinese school every saturday. I was forced to only speak Mandarin at home and to practice writing traditional Chinese characters (and I dreaded it). It really was quite painful from the point of view of an ABC (American Born Chinese). My parents would continually tell me that China would soon take over the world and it would be good for my future. I thought they were bogus. I took it with a grain of salt. It was thrown into the same pile of superstitions and nonsense like how if I ate my fish, I’d become smarter. Or if I ate more vegetables and greens, I’d become prettier. I thought all parents told their kids the same thing. But sure enough, China has been rising above the others in the past decade.
The US, known as the richest, most powerful hyperpower of the world, now owes China a shit ton of $$. The dollar amount won’t fit on your average calculator. I cannot say whether China will become the next “hyperpower” or not, although economists have been speculating. It’s a very hot topic now.
I quote my good friend, “If you are a guy with an American passport here, you are treated like a king.” It’s a reality. Whether you’ve got old family money, or you’re making the same income as back in America, your money here goes a long way. Your income practically doubles with lower income/sale taxes and typically a cheaper standard of life. You’ve got power and status here if you’re from the West. The way many foreign women in poorer countries desperately want to marry a wealthier man from the west, many women in China and surrounding countries love the American passport in China.
Clubbing in Shanghai on a Sunday
After some drinks at Brown Sugar, the expat crew decided to go big. Note: Whiskey mixed with Green tea would be the popular cocktail of choice. Afterall, it is a Sunday night which is their version of a Thursday night in Hollywood. We hopped in a cab ride over to a new hot club “M2“. Apparently there’s an M1, M2 & M3 club in Shanghai. Very creative. The club reminded me of a Hollywood night club. Packed with party people, two levels, table service everywhere and a very wild energy. We had a blast and was out until 5 am dancing to the latest dance hits.
We’ve heard in the news to avoid using products “Made in China”. That’s nearly impossible from what I’ve attempted. Also, we’ve heard in news they put lead and poison in things to cheapen the cost. It’s a common known factor that the popular alcohol bottles are also fake. The ever so popular Johnny Walker Black Label, Grey Goose and Glenfiddich are brought out bottled & sealed to the tables. But it’s commonly known and shrugged off that they are either watered down or filled with cheaper versions of the liquor.
A few days prior to coming on our trip, my dad’s friend sent him a very cynical sattire: “Everything in China – the food, the things you buy are all fake. The only thing that’s real are thieves.”
China is a huge contradiction, as is India. Any developing country who’s fastly leaped into potential hyperpower has that in them. Especially when they’re so focused on the money making but less on the quality of life for their people. I’m on my 3rd day here and I’m taking in a lot which slowly is seaping in. I think that there has not been a better time in Hhistory for me to visit China than now. And I’m extremely fascinated to be here and learn about this new land of opportunity, in a country where all 4 of my grandparents were born.