The view from Shanghai

After a grueling 15 hour flight, and some intense sleep therapy to overcome the jet lag, I'm finally ready to discover China. I've never been to China before, and I find it fascinating. The energy and excitement in China is palpable. You can feel it as you drive, as we did, from PuDong Airport to Lake Malaren on the other side of the city of Shanghai. We took the elevated ring road in our bus, and as it swerved to miss larger buses, smaller cars, bicycles, pedicabs (carrying not rich folks but parts and plumbing) and carried us toward the Advantech World Partner Conference, which is being held at the Lake Malaren Golf Resort and Conference Center. The hotel is elegant, but there are signs in the bathroom saying, "Don't drink the tap water." It has become a cliche to say that China is a nation of contrasts, but it is one of the properties of cliches that they are indisputably true. For me, as a first time visitor, I may sound like I'm spouting cliches but in fact, they are original, first time observations. It's just that so many westerners have gone before me... The view from my window this morning was elegant: fog moving gently across the fairways and the canal that winds through the golf course, with the condominiums and small shops wreathed in the grey, diffuse dawn light. But when you come up to them, the shops are all empty. They will be a "Northern European" village with the Conference Center as its heart. The shopkeepers and the goods have not yet arrived, though. There is a wonderful series of bronzes scattered throughout these empty stores, depicting "Hope," "Vitality," etc., and the impressionistic "ship" sculpture in front of the convention center truly is eye-candy for art lovers. The conference doesn't actually start until tomorrow, so, with a free day, I decided to go visit the Emerson facilities in Shanghai, which are supposed to be the oldest and largest western automation company facilities in China. More about that later.