Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shanghai Lagniappe

A "little something extra" today... Three random thoughts from Shanghai...

Historical Monument in Xintiandi

This morning I had a revealing and fascinating research interview at a location in Shanghai's swanky Xintiandi area. For those who don't already know, Xintiandi (新天地, or "new heaven and earth") is a relatively new development in the former foreign concession area of Shanghai where old Shanghai-style buildings have been completely renovated and turned into a very interesting collection of shops and restaurants. Some Chinese friends introduced it to me as a place where I can go to "have a drink with other foreigners" -- which is not exactly something I've been looking for, but it's nice to know.

While strolling around I came across this sign that seemed quite ironic to me. It says this is the location of the first meeting of the People's Congress of the Chinese Communist Party -- right here in the middle of this monument to capitalism and possibly the largest concentration of foreigners in all of China.

Surely I am not the first person to make note of this, so if you're already aware of it, then please feel free to chalk it up to yet more inane comments from yet another white-dude blogger. :-)

Taxi Advertising

Last evening someone posted a link in Twitter to this WSJ article about seat-back advertising in Shanghai. On the way back to my hotel from Xintiandi today, I was (un)fortunate to grab a taxi with one of these things. It's a small LCD video screen running nothing but constant ads.

As with the other times I have seen these things, I watched for about ten seconds before hitting the mute button. It strikes me that this model is all ads and no content. If the taxi offered Tivo, the screen would remain blank. I'm not an advertising executive, but I am a human, so I think I have a valid opinion on this. Then again, maybe it was intended for the average Shanghai resident who has seen the city so many times that they would rather watch ads than look out the window.

Yes, I'm still stuck on autos...

In yet another Twitter posting I saw today, someone put up a link to this Steve Clemons blog entry at The Washington Note. In this post, Steve tells about his visit to the BYD factory in Shenzhen and praises their development of plug-in hybrids.

Though I think he is a little too optimistic in his assessment of BYD's (and China's) new energy vehicle capabilities (I have noted my pessimism in a previous post) he is one of the few people who dares to mention the unthinkable, an increase in the US federal gasoline tax so that gasoline never drops below $4 per gallon. Since I don't intend to run for President, I would like to say that I agree with this proposal -- particularly if it is phased in over a few years and the proceeds are 100% devoted to local public transportation alternatives.

As for my assessment of China's new energy vehicle development, I have still yet to meet any auto insiders here who are as optimistic as foreigners are, but I am still fully supportive of anyone who is pouring money into this important effort.

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