Visit to Shanghai and Changxing
- By Professor Prabhu Guptara
- Published 02/10/2010
Professor Prabhu Guptara
Professor Prabhu Guptara is Executive Director, Organisational Development, Wolfsberg (a subsidiary of UBS - one of the largest banks in the world). He is also Freeman of the City of London and of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, and Chartered Fellow of the of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development; he is also Fellow: of the Institute of Directors, of the Royal Commonwealth Society, and of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts Commerce and Manufactures; and he continues to supervise PhD research at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) as well as to be Visiting Professor at various Universities and Business Schools around the world.
Earlier roles include: a Governor of the Polytechnic of Central London, Member of the Council of the British Institute of Management, of the International Federation of Training & Development Organisations (IFTDO), of the Association for Management Education and Development (UK), of the South East Regional Council of the Confederation of British Industry.
Judge, 1988 National Training Awards, 1980 Commonwealth Poetry Prize, 1990 & 1991 Deo Gloria Prize for Fiction; Chair of the Panel of Judges, Deo Gloria Prize 1992 & 1993.
Experience with an enormous range of organisations including: Akzo Nobel (Netherlands), the Associated Banks Institute (Germany), Barclays Bank (UK), British Petroleum (UK), the Council of Europe, Cultor (Finland), Deutsche Bank (Germany), Groupe Bull (France), Federation of Finnish Engineers (Finland), the International Management Association of Japan, Kemira (Finland), Kraft Jakob Suchard (Switzerland), Leadership Academy (Finland), Nokia Telecommunications (Finland), Novo Nordisk (Denmark), Sedgwick International Insurance and Reinsurance Brokers (UK), Singapore Institute of Management, Sonatrach (Algeria), Sun Alliance (UK), UNCTAD, Valeo (France), and so on.
Organiser, chair and lecturer by invitation for numerous international conferences, he has contributed widely to radio and television in the UK and other countries (The Money Program, Any Questions) and has written for Financial Times (London, UK), The Guardian, The Times and other publications; articles, for example, in The Gower Handbook of Management, The Gower Handbook of Quality, and the International Encyclopedia of Business & Management (Routledge).
A CD-ROM has been issued of his lecture at the Professorenforum, University of Zurich, titled "Making the World Better - Why it does NOT happen...and what TO DO about it"
Further information available from firstname.lastname@example.org
His best-known research publication is "Top Executives in the Global 100 Companies and their IT-Competence" (ADVANCE: Management Training Ltd., UK, and Wolfsberg Executive Development Centre, Switzerland, 1998); and he is included in Debrett's People of Today and in Who's Who in the World. Professor Prabhu Guptara lives in Switzerland.
We landed, were greeted, whisked through customs, and escorted to a small 11-seater bus, two side-by-side, with an aisle down the middle, each seat with a foldaway tables, except for the front seat which has a spacious fixed desk in front of it to signal the importance of the Leader
The smooth and swift drive to Chongxing takes about 2 hrs though we are fogged out throughout - maximum visibility about 400yds, but most of the time more like 150yds
Our translator is from another province, with the first foreign language French, but quite competent English
In the translator's generation there is the beginning of a move now away from the larger cities to smaller cities, on the basis of better quality of life in the smaller cities, but I wonder whether the reality in China is not rather that everyone has to work equally hard in every part of the country
In any case, I am interested to learn that the translator orders clothes on the internet and gets them 2 or 3 days later; and that, according to the translator, one should be able to get delivery even in the remotest parts of China in 4 days: the delivery cost is about 6 Yuan in this part of the world, and about 10 Yuan for the remotest parts
Apparently, two months ago a drunken driving rule was introduced throughout the country - penalty 2 weeks jail - but perhaps the rich may still find that money facilitates a way out?
On arriving in Chongxing, we are taken to a huge hotel of the sort that one might have in Delhi or Agra: it is almost empty
the Tea Tribute Tea House from the 8th century, restored to its former glory recently, has to be specially opened for our small delegation - the advantage of being official guests!
Why is everything so deserted? Partly because this is winter: most Chinese and most foreigners prefer Chongxing between Spring and Autumn. And yes, they do get plenty of national and foreign visitors apparently. The newly built Exhibition Cente is very appropriate both for its scale and for its technical wizardry in view of the purpose for which it is designed: impressing foreigners so as to attract investment as well as impressing the best-qualified Chinese so as to attract them here as workers. The descriptive plaques here are in Mandarin, though the Tea House has everything in English as well
I am interested that in the hotel's welcome fruit basket there is a rather outsize (from the Indian point of view) version of a wild fruit that we call "Baer" in Hindi; this Chinese version may be cultivated?
On the tour of the Exhibition Centre, there is more than one reference to a "golden spike" which, I discover, refers to "the only standard of global stratigraphic division and correlation in in chronostratigraphic research". It is not golden, and it is not a spike in the normal sense of that word....
Changxing is still a relatively sleepy little town becuase most of the land around was occupied by the army. For some reason the army appears to have relinquished this land and moved elsewhere, when leases were taken by unknown (to our colleagues) parties, who developed the land in cooperation with the government which built the school, hospital, administrative centre, roads and high-speed railway (the last to be completed end-2010). The privately-developed houses, buildings and flats are available for sale to private individuals or western companies (though land itself cannot be sold in most or all of China). How much of these developments in China have actually been sold or rented cannot be discovered so far with any degree of reliability.
This applies also to the highly-impressive area of Pudong in Shanghai, which continues to become even more impressive each year. Though rumour has it that the buildings here are sinking because the land is marshy, that rumour is also impossible to establish or refute. Perhaps, to play safe, anyone who is interested in seeing this modern wonder should haste here in case it becomes like Venice. We don't get much time to be tourists, but the Bund is certainly a most interesting viewing platform to look on to Pudong. However, we do have time to look at one of the more fashionable bars and one of the most impressive restaurants, and I can assure my readers that Shanghai is as "cosmopolitan" (or "decadent", depending on one's point of view) in terms of culture, design and lifestyle
The city bustles away, very much on the make, with a population that apparently tops 20 million. In spite of that, traffic moves impressively swiftly on all the new roads that have been built.
There seems to be some competition between Shanghai and Beijing, in the same way as there is between Oxford and Cambridge, or between New York and Washington DC: when the 2008 Olympics were held in Beijing, there was no reference to them in Shanghai; and there is no reference in Beijing to the 2010 World Expo being held in Shanghai!
We visit one university, which is most impressive for its size and facilities. The city as a whole appears to be doing its best to maintain green spaces inside the city (much better than the smaller Swiss towns seem to be doing on that matter!).
Fascinating mixture of architectural styles, from some (too few!) traditional buildings, through the lovely the French-style colony called the French Concession, and early 20th century buildings (e.g. the neoclassical HSBC Building and the art deco Sassoon House) to the more eccentric modern buildings.
Too short a visit, but it is always most interesting to return to a city that has grown and grown since the 90s, and seems to be continuing to grow apace inspite of the current crisis