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Economic powerhouse  

How China became an economic powerhouse
Currently, China's economy boasts the world's highest GDP, above the USA. In fact, yes, the Chinese economy did overtake the States. That means it has a bigger economy than every Eurozone nation combined. Plus it's only likely to get bigger in the coming years. China's GDP Grows 6.7% currently.
So how did this happen? In this article, we present a timeline of the major events of the last 40 years that have seen China take over the financial world.
The Late 70s
Since October 1st 1949, China had been the world's largest communist state. Throughout this entire period, the economy had been strictly monitored and structured in accordance with government initiatives. 1978, however, was a year of huge economic reform, as the Central Committee increased the potential for market mechanics to affect the system, while planning a huge reduction in its control over the economy.
The first thing the rest of the world noticed was the sudden eagerness Chinese farmers had to trade with foreign food companies. For the first time, Chinese agricultural organisations were allowed to sell their surplus crops abroad.
Another key change came with the Duel Track System, also established that year. This created two prices for goods and services: one for State Owned Enterprises and a second for the private sector. So, while the SOEs would be offered lower prices, private companies would still be able to trade and grow.
The following year, the Law on Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures was passed by the Committee, which officially allowed and encourage foreign companies to invest in the Chinese economy.
The 1980s
The People's Republic of China marked the new decade by becoming an official member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In order to support foreign investment, the Committee created four ‘economic zones' that would be specifically structured to attract capital from abroad. These zones were in Zhuhai, Xiamen, Shenzhen and Shantou.
Over the next decade, several huge reforms were brought in to inject life into the Chinese economy.
• Household Responsibility Reform: This allowed China's farmers to keep their can retain surpluses rather than give them back to the government.
• The 6th Five Year Plan: For the first time, a Five Year Plan had the growth of a market-based economy at its core.
• Open Areas: In 1984, the state began work on 14 cities and ‘open areas' for investment that would not be governed by the red tape of other areas of the country.
• General Principles of Civil Law: This provide providing the legal structure needed for a market economy.
The 1990s
China began the 90s by opening its first ever stock markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Though, midway through the decade, inflation rates threatened to derail the economy, the Committee acted swiftly, bringing in banking reforms that controlled lending, easing the state through the late 90s Asian economic downturn.
In fact China was in a position to help other nations in the continent during this period, including Thailand, offering over $4 billion worth of aid to its neighbours.
The 2000s
The new millennium saw China moving ever closer to becoming a free market state, with membership of the World Trade Organisation spurring a number of reforms such as the elimination of domestic price controls and agricultural subsidies. Also share markets opened to foreign investment and private property was protected by the constitution.
By the end of the 2000s, China had reached an important understanding with the United States, with a ten year co-operation deal on sustainability and increased market access.
Thank to these huge steps taken over the last four decades, China is now one of the world's most influential economic states.

 

How to do business in China  

If you are travelling to China to do business, either for the short or the long term, you will need to prepare yourself for the cultural differences between here and the west. Here we present some simple tips that will help you on your way to succeeding when you go to work in China.
Make strong connections
Business all over the globe is about making connections though, in China, this is particularly true. Trust is everything and, until you've gained the trust of the people with whom you want to do business, you won't get anywhere. Once you show that you are reliable, however, a Chinese business person will happily let you into their circle of connections. Often a single, strong influential connection will be all you need to make open the door to a successful business career. The best way to do this? Don't jump straight into business. Chinese business people like to make friends before talking about money. This will show them you are a long term operator and not just after a quick buck.
This is not a hard sell environment
While you might be used to high pressure business deals and meetings, that kind of thing does not wash in China. Here, influential business people will not respect you pressuring them for a quick decision but will prefer you to state your position honestly, openly and logically. That does not mean you have to be weak – in fact, you should make it clear at all times that you can walk away from the table. Yet trying to coerce them into giving you what you want as quickly as possible will not get you anywhere. Patience is essential.
Show respect to people on your side
In China there is a code of honour attached to how you do business. Key to this is treating all colleagues with the utmost respect. Therefore, publically questioning or criticising a member of your workforce or team is considered both rude and unprofessional. Tact and delicacy is very much the order of the day.
“No” is not always an option
The Chinese do not say “no” very easily. This does not mean, however, that they will say yes to everything. What passes for a positive answer in the west could, actually, be an indirect no in China. Learn the difference.
The Chinese do not say “no” very easily. This does not mean, however, that they will say yes to everything. What passes for a positive answer in the west could, actually, be an indirect no in China. Learn the difference.
When speaking in English, use short sentences
When you are dealing with a Chinese person who understands English, it is often easy to fall into the trap of thinking they will understand everything. Don't forget that they are speaking a foreign language and accommodating your inability to speak their language.
Credibility is everything
The Chinese will not respect you for ‘winging it'. They will expect you to be well prepared and to have studied the matter at hand in detail before your meeting. Presenting half-baked thoughts or just spitballing ideas will not go down well, so don't do it. Think hard before you open your mouth.
Document everything
When it comes to business, the Chinese like things mapped out clearly and concisely. Charts, diagrams and sketches will all be welcome as will plenty of plain text and straightforward wording. And, in line with the previous tip, do not ever present partial data, only hard facts.

Re-wire your western mind  

Want to succeed in Chinese business? Then re-wire your western mind
One of the main roadblocks to people from a western business background who are looking to expand into the Chinese market is that, in many ways, the Chinese business person and the western business person will see things entirely differently. It is not a question of one side being right and one side being wrong. It is simply the case that people from different cultures are raised to see things differently and, in the case of China and, say America or the UK, they are raised to see things very differently.
It can take years of exposure to Chinese culture for a western business person to fully appreciate all the nuances and particularities that differentiate their thinking from that of their Chinese colleagues, partners or clients. This guide, however, can at least prepare you for what you are likely to find, with the key perceptive variances.
Example: Logic
In western society, logic is generally seen as a linear process. We accept A, therefore we accept B and that leads to C. One thing happens it causes another thing to happen from this we can deduce a conclusion. In other words, it's all about working out how one thing causes another thing. In Chinese thinking, things are quite different. Here, logic works in a spiral fashion. The thinking is more subtle and the connections between things are looser and less rigid or provable.
How does this affect business?
This reliance on a more fluid, less structured form of logical reasoning and critical thinking means a lot more time tends to be taken over decisions. Also, a powerful Chinese business partner or potential business partner may need the benefits of a deal explained several different ways, each at great length before being prepared to shake hands.
Example: Disagreements
In western culture, people are generally quite willing to disagree and express their disagreement in the surest and most certain terms. In fact, in many business environments, somebody who is prepared to speak up with a dissenting voice will actually be commended for their honesty, bravery and critical intelligence. In China, openly disagreeing is seen as an almost entirely negative action. If A Chinese person does not agree with you, they will express it in less straightforward terms, often in non-verbal communication.
How does this affect business?
Don't ever expect a straight no when you've made an offer. If the answer is negative, you will probably get a very roundabout, open-to-interpretation explanation that hints towards potential flaws in a proposal, yet never directly touches upon them. In fact, anything other than a very hearty ‘yes' is most probably a ‘no.'
Example: The individual Vs. the Group
In the west, there is a huge premium placed upon the rights, ideas and importance of the individual. If you live in the US, Canada, the UK or central Europe, chances are you have been raised with a keen sense of entitlement regarding your rights and ambitions as a person. In China, a greater focus is put upon what an individual can contribute to the group of which they are a member, often at the expense of individual freedom or short term happiness.
How does this affect business?
Personal autonomy and independence are not respected or granted easily in the Chinese corporate culture. Far more important is to be part of the group and carry out your job to the best of your ability in order to contribute to the group's goal. This can be tough when you have risen through western business, with its romanticism of the maverick attitude and out-of-the-box thinker, but it is crucial to how the Chinese get business done.

Fastest growing business sectors  

As more and more western companies and investors look east for investment opportunities, it is the perfect time to take a closer look at China's most rapidly expanding industries. China's dynamic economy and increasingly influential financial market may well dictate the future of global business. Here is a brief guide to where most of its money is being generated.
Food and beverage
With a population of more than 1 billion people, it should come as no surprise that there is plenty of money in food production and provision in China. As the economy soars and the middle class grows, demand for speciality foodstuffs, foreign cuisine and imported food brands is rising. This has been helped along by a number of food scares related to many of China's home-grown foods. So, if you work in the food industry, then China represents a massive potential area for growth and investment, yet it is not an easy market to enter. Given the sheer size of the country, brand recognition can take time and supermarket shelf space is priced very high.
Healthcare
Again, given the sheer number of people in the country and the populations increased wealth, it is obvious why healthcare is such a growing industry. With much government support promised in the current five year plan, private hospitals, prescription medicines and medical equipment are all growing sectors. Though foreign investment will play a big part in this, it won't be a clear and easy path for even recognised foreign companies looking to make their mark in China. Foreign medical devices are generally considered more expensive than their Chinese equivalents and this perception may become more vivid as the government makes high quality healthcare more affordable for its citizens. Whatever happens, it is 100% that this sector will keep growing, mainly because it has to. There are now 185 million senior citizens in the country and that figure will only rise higher in the near future. Caring for all those people as they go through their elderly years will mean big business for somebody.
Education
Once again, we find the increasingly large middle class dictating what industries grow and decrease in China. As families find themselves with more disposable income, the availability of private education becomes more important. Whether fair or unfair, there is a perception amongst certain elements in Chinese society that the standard system is not doing enough to educate children to western standards. This has led to a call for more high quality fee-paying schools for the children of people who can afford them. The sector has responded by ballooning in size, with private education set to reach a market size of $102 billion this year. This includes after school tutors, private third level academies and adult education, a pretty hefty proportion of which is based in the English language. That last little fact means western companies have the upper hand in his market.
Green technology
It is not secret that there is an issue in some Chinese cities with pollution. Once again, as the citizens become more affluent they become more vocal about their rights to clean air and food or, at least, their vocalism becomes harder to ignore. In response, the government has dedicated a vast chunk of its most recent five year plan to greener technology and industrial practices. With investment in clean energy up 20% from last year and much more cash pouring in, any company that can help provide clean water, solar energy or decreased waste may find a bountiful market in China.

China - biggest brands  

If you really want to figure out what makes the Chinese economy tick, then learning about its biggest brand names is a good place to begin. Here we list some of the major players in China's rapidly growing economy.
China Mobile
A telecoms brand, China Mobile is one of the world's largest providers of wireless services. As the middle class grows, goods such as phones and broadband services become more and more in demand and China Mobile is spearheading that trend.
ICBC
Since 1984 the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has been a powerful force in the Chinese financial market. Its recent growth has been spurred on by a determined expansion into foreign markets. Thanks to its state funding (it is one of the four major government run banks), its financial clout is pretty intimidating. It owns 13% of all Chinese loan products and 15% of all Chinese deposits and, with more than 16,000 branches across the nation, it is not getting smaller anytime soon.
China Construction Bank
Another state run banking enterprise, CCS is the go-to supporter for any form of infrastructure project in the country. With 12% of the nation's loans, it is one of China's most trusted creditors.
Baidu 
Think of Google. Now think of Google in a world where no other search engine is allowed to exist. That's about the best way of understanding Baidu, who claim 79% of the search engine market in China. The world's 3rd fastest growing company, Baidu dominates the technology scene in its home country despite being virtually unknown outside its borders.
Tencent
Tencent is China's most prominent digital communication enterprise, offering customers a plethora of online tools and services. Its catalogue includes web portals, games, chat applications and much, much more. Plus it is only getting bigger, as evidenced by its recent partnership with Disney, which will allow Tencent to distribute animated Disney content through its social networks.
Agricultural Bank of China
The third state-owned bank on our list, the ABC is mainly responsible for funding small and mid-sized companies in rural China. Though it does not have the creditor power of the above mentioned banks, it is hugely influential in the agricultural sector for obvious reasons.
China Life Insurance
Again we see China's growing middle class' influence over what market sector's become more powerful. More income means more people investing in things like life insurance. With the advertising power of spokesperson Yao Ming (China's most famous ex-NBA star), China Life is considered the most recognised life insurance company, just edging ahead of Ping An.
Bank of China
Yes, Bank of China is the fourth of the big four state owned banks to get on our list. Considering they are funded heavily by the government, it should come as no surprise that these massive financial powerhouses are so influential in the Chinese economy.
Moutai
Though not traditionally a nation of heavy drinkers, China has recently begun a love affair with alcohol that shows no signs of dissipating. Though wine is the tipple of choice for many, baijiu, a high volume, clear liquid little known outside of the country, is also very popular. Moutai is its most famous producer.
Sinopec
Finally, we have Sinopec, an Oil and Gas provider based in Beijing. With more foreign partnerships expected in the next few years, Sinopec will only grow more, despite the government occasionally reducing its income by forcing down the energy prices.

 

Top Destinations in China  

Over the last few decades, since the beginning of reform and opening, China has become one of the most-watched and hippest tourist destinations in the world. Likewise, tourism in China is one of the fastest-growing markets in world and has greatly expanded over the past years.

Indeed, with over 55 million overseas in 2010, in 2015 approx 150 million, China is the third most visited country in the world. According to the report, foreign exchange income was 45.8 billion U.S. dollars, the world's fourth largest in the same year. Meanwhile, the number of domestic tourist visits totaled 1.61 million.
All in all, tourism is a relevant industry in China - its tourism revenue reached $ 185 billion in 2009 - and this is also due to its touristic values such as History, architecture, food, beauty and nature. Therefore, here are the top visited cities in China:
1) Beijing is the most visited city in the country. As the capital of the People's Republic of China, Beijing is not only the heart of the nation's politics, culture and international intercourse, but it is also one of the six ancient capital cities in Chinese history; therefore, it is home to relevant sites such as Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, The Great Wall, Ming Tomb, Tiananmen Square, Hutong and Yashow Market.
2) Shanghai comes second in the list of most visited cities in China but comes first in size. Indeed, this magnificent city is the largest metropolitan area in China and is situated in central-easter China, facing the East China Sea. Some of the sites that attract tourists include Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai Bund, Shanghai Xin Tian Di, Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Yuyuan Garden and Shanghai Huangpu River.
3) China's third most visited city reflects China's worldwide relevance in historical value. With over 3,100 years of history, Xian is one of the oldest cities in China. Tourists from all over the world flock to Xian to travel in time and admire the mysticism of China's ancient civilisation. Some of its most relevant attractions include Terra-cotta Army, Banpo Museum, Shaanxi Provincial Museum, Xian Great Mosque, Huaqing Hotspring, City Wall, Big Goose Pagoda and Forest of Stone Steles Museum.
4) Bordered by the Li River, Guilin is the most beautiful place in China. Both overseas and domestic tourist flock to Guilin attracted by its famous natural views, such as green hills, featuring rockeries, clean water, unique caves and stones of many shapes. The local colour is enhanced by the many ethnic minorities that inhabit the place. Some of its most relevant attractions include The Li River, The Reed Flute Cave, Seven Star Park, Guilin Folded Brocade Hil, Fubo Hill, Elephant Trunk Hill, Fubo Hill, Solitary Beauty Hill, Longji Terraced Field in Longsheng, Fengyu Cave in Lipu County Guiline, among others.
5) Some of the others popular cities include Hangzhou known as Heaven on Earth due to its beautiful natural scenery. Its most famous attraction is the city's West Lake, bordered by numerous temples, pagodas, gardens and artificial islands within the lake.
6) Chengdu - where the giant pandas are the major attraction - is the sixth most visited city in China.
7) Huangshan, seventh most visited city in China, is famous for its magnificent beauty. Some of the most important sites include Tunxi Ancient Street, Xidi and Hongcun Ancient Villages, Tangyue Memorial Archway, Flower Mountain and Enigma Caves.

Beijing influential  

Beijing, 8th most influential city in the world
According to the latest study by Forbes, Beijing ranks among the top 10 most influential cities in the world. The capital of the People's Republic of China and Sydney tied for the eighth spot.
Forbes also assessed that the Chinese cities Shanghai and Beijing have been gaining influence over the past years and forecasted they might move up in the list of most influential cities in the future.
The study shows that size does not matter anymore, as the Chinese capital came ahead of the country's largest metropolitan area Shanghai. “We ranked China's capital eight, ahead of Shanghai (19th)” because “with the advantage of being the country's all-powerful political center, Beijing is the headquarters of most large state-owned companies and is home to the country's elite educational institutions and its most innovative companies,” the report said.
Although Sydney only has 4.5 million residents, significantly less than Beijing's 21 million, the Australian city tied with the Chinese capital due to its high level of foreign investment and 15th ranking on the Z/Yen Group's 2013 Global Financial Centres Index, among other factors.
London still ranks first as the most influential city in the world, even after more than a century of imperial decline, the analysts at Forbes stated. Despite describing the United Kingdom as a “second-rate power”, the analysts put London at the top of its power list, saying the city's “unparalleled legacy as a global financial capital still underpins its pre-eminence”.
"A preferred domicile for the global rich, London is not only the historical capital of the English language, which contributes to its status as a powerful media hub and major advertising centre, but it's also the birthplace of the cultural, legal and business practices that define global capitalism," it said.
New York, which came in a close second in the study, is home to most of the world's top investment banks and hedge funds, and the massive stock trading volume on the city's exchanges. New York is followed by Paris and Singapore in the list, which signals a shift of power to “savvy” cities, rather than the largest or fastest growing.
To determine the most influential cities, John Korkin, urban geographer Ali Modarres, analyst Aaron Reen and demographer Wendell Cox graded 58 metropolitan areas in in eight categories: the amount of foreign direct investment they have attracted, the concentration of corporate headquarters, how many particular business niches they dominate, air connectivity, strength of producer services, financial services, technology and media power and racial diversity.
Of the world's 10 most populous cities, only Tokyo, New York and Beijing made the top 10 for influence, showing that while in the past century the greatest global cities were generally the largest and centres of the world's great empires, “today size is not so important”.
Among the cities on the rise, there's another Chinese city, which is Shanghai. However, these data is also relevant for the region as many of the cities which are gaining influence are in Asia, shifting the traditional influence from European and American cities to Asia-Pacific.

Obesity rises in China  

With an increasingly prevalent market, a fast-growing economy, rising incomes and rapid urbanisation, China has become more and more modernised in the past decades, but this modernisation has come at a price - obesity issues. While the Chinese population has doubled its life span with a developed public health program, now Chinese people are suffer from diseases that are more common in wealthier nations which are not caused by malnutrition as in starvation but by overconsumption of unhealthy foods and lack of exercise.
While the US keeps topping obesity charts worldwide, China is not falling far behind as Chinese children follow the same unhealthy American habits - junk food, sodas and couch potatoes lifestyles. “China has entered the era of obesity. The speed of growth is shocking,” stated a leading child-health researcher, Ji Chengye.
Indeed, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity is a major health concern. While overall rates of obesity are below 5 percent in the country, in some cities these rates are higher than 20 percent.
Obesity in the Asian country is mostly prevalent in urbanised cities where fast food culture has been embraced by the society and globalisation has taken over, in contrast with poorer rural areas.
As the McDonalisation of the global society becomes more clear and China becomes more modernised, rising incomes, rapid urbanisation and cities dotted with fast food establishments - such as McDonald's (MCD), Pizza Hut (YUM), and KFC (YUM) - growing obesity among Chinese children is becoming a relevant problem in the country. Even an expert at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Chen Chunming, has warned against the rapid growth of American fast-food outlets in China. He advises: “Don't take children to eat fast food like McDonald's and KFC.”
In fact, more than half of Chinese children eat unhealthy food - including overly sweet and salt snacks as well as fried meals - every day, according to a survey of 10,000 students in 24 schools in six Chinese cities. Meanwhile, a quarter of primary school pupils and 16 percent of middle schoolers sip sugary beverages on a daily basis.
The kids' unhealthy eating habits are accompanied by a lack of exercise. According to the survey, about two-thirds of the students get less than an hour of exercise a day. Then, when it comes to exercising outdoors on the weekends, only 40 percent of primary pupils and one-fifth of middle school students engage in these kind of activities.
Moreover, thanks to a rapid motorisation, people are walking and cycling much more less than before. According to reports in 2002 and 2012, there is a correlation between ownership of motorised transport by households in China and higher obesity related problems in children as well as adults.
According to a recent report by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, China is undergoing a fast rise in childhood obesity. In fact twenty-three percent of Chinese males younger than 20 are overweight or obese, while 14 perfect of their female counterparts suffer from the same condition. In contrast, back in 1990, the corresponding rate for Chinese male and female rate was less than 10 percent.
China's current rates are still below those in the U.S. (almost 30 percent for young males and females), they are above than those in Japan, South Korea and India.
According to the authorities, specifically Wang Longde, the Chinese vice health minister, the problem is that the population lacks awareness of the problem and knowledge in terms of what constitutes a healthy diet.
Therefore, as a response, the government aims at reducing the problem by building more playgrounds and making it mandatory for students to exercise or play sports for an hour at school.

Ai Wei Wei  
As a Chinese contemporary artist who is active in all sorts of artistic creations such as sculpture, architecture, photography and curating, Ai Wei Wei's latest installation in Toronto remains one of his greatest yet. Themed Forever Bicycles, he has installed 3,144 bicycles that seem to be floating in Toronto Square. With its sheer amount of bicycles, onlookers are in for a wondrous moment as they look at the geometrically homogenous design that Ai Wei Wei has created.
 
Ai Wei Wei's early life has been heavily documented and is an interesting tie to the artist that he is now. His father, Ai Qing was a Chinese Poet who was denounced during Mao Zedong's rule. The entire family was sent to a labor camp when Ai Wei Wei was barely one – they continued to live there until he turned sixteen. After Mao Zedong's death, the family returned to Beijing in 1976 whereby Ai Wei Wei began to actively pursue art in his academic career. Having lived in New York for about 12 years, he worked odd jobs to support himself while constantly taking photographs of streets in the big city; they are now known as the New York Photographs.
Today, Ai Wei Wei is a successful artist with many of his exhibitions featured globally. Although he has been arrested by Chinese authorities over his political activism, Ai Wei Wei remains a staunch artists who believes that through creating, awareness can be made which in effect provokes change. His art is sensational in 21st century art world and it is not surprising, just look at Forever Bicycles and you will understand why.
Shanghai  
As a global city, Shanghai has approximately 23 million residents. Literally named “above the sea”, this city is an important apex of China. Historically, it started off as a fishing and textile town. She begins to gain the reputation of being a financial center after opening up to Western powers circa 1842. Today, Shanghai remains one of the most fascinating city in China as she holds myriad characters and facets.
The Bund is a must-go for any traveller in Shanghai. Known as the “museums of buildings”, this street houses historical buildings which once symbolized the powerhouse of Europe. Situated along the Huangpu river, one is able to see the HSBC building, a neo-classical building which is perceived to be the highlight of the Bund. One can also see the Pudong skyline from across the Huang Pu River. With the impressive buildings lining side by side, the skyline of this city at night is impressive and has been intensively photographed.
As one walks further down, you will come into Huang Pu and the Old City. Despite being a mega city, Shanghai is still best explored on foot; while ambling into the Old City, do stop by Yuyuan Garden, a traditional Chinese-Ming styled garden. Its famous tea house and zigzag bridge can be visited. It is here where one is able to take a breath of fresh air. In Huang Pu area, one can either choose to take a river cruise or start a stroll from People's Square. Passing by Nanjing Road Pedestrian street where stationery shops and bookshops are located, be prepared to come face to face with one of the largest bookstore in Shanghai.
There is a lot of activities going on the street level there it is advisable to take one's time to observe the way the locals carry out their daily routine. It is surprising to note how similar this city is to many other mega cities in the world.
  
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