Four Reflections After a Week in Beijing
In late July, I returned to the United States after a week of vacation / work in China. I’m finally over the jet lag and I’m beginning to process more of what I experienced on this trip. Four quick thoughts from my seven-day sojourn in Beijing are as follows:
1) The tech boom behind the red curtain is real. Moreover, these startups want to increase their interaction with the West. This desire for more interaction made for a significant turn-out at what was initially planned to be a small SXSW Meet Up at Naked Hub on July 17. A dozen more meetings throughout the week with Beijing-based founders reaffirmed the vibrance of this entrepreneurial ecosystem.
2) All hail Jack Ma! Need more evidence of the power of the startup narrative in this country? T-shirts and trinkets commemorating the founder of Alibaba (pictured above) now share shelf-space with Chairman Mao at many busy souvenir shops. Ponder that strange irony, please.
3) Its a long way from Paris to Peking. While China may now be leading the global effort against climate change, their efforts to solve this problem can’t happen quickly enough. The air quality in the summer months in cities like Beijing is appalling — and these conditions get even worse in the winter (when coal usage reaches its peak).
4) The bicycle revolution has begun. Pollution issues notwithstanding, green energy has a strong foothold here. Thousands and thousands of orange and yellow bikes have become a nearly ubiquitous fixture in China’s bigger cities over the last six months. Learn more about the battle between Mobiike and Ofo by watching this report from Bloomberg’s Selina Wang. Can these bike-sharing companies make it in the US? Mobile founder and president Weiwei Hu addressed this question at her panel at SXSW 2017.
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.