Eyes opened in China
China experts these days are saying, "If you haven't been to China in the last six months, you may as well not have been in six YEARS." That's how fast things are changing there.
One of our staff people, Glen Stone, our Public Affairs Manager, just got back from China, where he was representing our Board and our World Trade Centre Toronto at two conferences - one to talk about international trade with the new China and the other to help their local business organizations pick the brains of established Chambers and Boards around the world.
I was very happy that we were asked to participate. It was a great opportunity for us to showcase not only our Board and WTC, but the City of Toronto itself. We're a great city for international business and investment, and the natural gateway to North America. It's important that other countries get to know that.
So, the other Glen (yes, it does get confusing, having two Glens here!) tells me that it was an eye-opening experience. He says anyone who doubts that China is opening up should have been there at the trade conference when speakers openly debated and criticized government policies, as well as each other. It's the kind of thing we rarely see here in the supposedly wide-open western culture, never mind in front of a huge audience and the media in China.
The host city, Shenzhen, is a pretty mind-blowing story in itself. Just 25 years ago, it was a fishing village. Now, it's a city of five million and the fastest growing economic zone in the world!
The conference was literally front-page news there, and our Board of Trade was quoted extensively in the media. We've also made some good connections and friends among the business leaders and other board/chamber representatives. We all signed a friendship pact and agreed to look into how we can turn this into an annual international event, with each of our organizations taking turns hosting others from around the world.
It's a great idea and a real tribute to the vision of the Shenzhen Entrepreneur Association/Shenzhen Enterprise Confederation and the Service Bureau of the Shenzhen Industry Association, who put the conference together and acted as incredibly generous hosts to our representative and all the other guests.
As they say in Mandarin, xie xie (thank you), to everyone in Shenzhen!