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It’s 1:26pm and I’m heading back from a weekend in Guangzhou, having celebrated the great Motherland’s birthday from inside the actual Motherland, rather than from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  And for obvious reasons, there are plenty more Chinese flags being flown in the mainland, as opposed to Hong Kong, where National Day is just a day off from work with fireworks thrown in for good measure.

I’m still incredibly bullish on this region of China.  I’ll go into it more when I have time, because this train is scheduled to arrive in Shenzhen in only 23 more minutes.  But the Pearl River Delta region remains the most fascinating for me in China, and I’ve spent 6 years in the country in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin.  Most of my time (half of it) has been in Beijing. I didn’t actually live in Tianjin, but having worked there, let’s just say I’m familiar with the city.

Plus, I like an underdog.  Everyone talks about comparing life in Shanghai and Beijing, about which city has more culture or is more international or has better nightlife.  Part of me wishes people would see that China is a whole lot more diverse than those two cities, and perhaps neither is the best place to live.  But on the other hand, the secret of the south might best be kept as just that:  a secret.

There’s a lot going on down here.  By 2015, the cities of Zhuhai, Macao, Hong Kong, Dongguan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen will be connected by high speed rail, making it less than an hour to get between any of the cities.  Macao already sees gambling revenues which have surpassed those of Las Vegas.  Hong Kong is an international financial centre rivalling New York and London, and will not be eclipsed by Shanghai in our lifetimes.  Shenzhen remains the factory of the world, building everything from iPads and iPhones to luxury handbags.  It’s the “Overnight City”, as reported by Peter Hessler, because of one’s chances of getting rich.  Then there’s Guangzhou, with over 2,000 years history, a relatively more open press, and the cultural home of the Cantonese people.  Last but not least there is Zhuhai, perhaps the sleeper favourite in the area.  A stunningly beautiful, well-planned town that is a great getaway spot from the hustle and bustle of the nearby metropolises.  On a weekend, I can’t think of anything one can’t do, from concerts to gambling to hiking to water-skiing or wakeboarding. (Perhaps, considering the climate, skiing might be hard to come by).

I could go on, but my train is about to arrive in Shenzhen.  Looking forward to continuing this conversation soon.




  1. I second that. Beijing may be a center in terms of art and music (among other things, of course, but this is where where my experience lies) and Shanghai for design, but both of those lack a real sense of ecological connection to surrounding cities and rural regions. The strong point of the PRD, of course, is the flow of people, goods, and ideas from one neighborhood to the next, which makes it a strong option in the long-term even after basic manufacturing moves inland and a portion of mainland finance moves to Shanghai.

  2. admin says:

    Hi Robin, I also have a lot of experience in Beijing, and it’s a great town. Enjoyed my time there a lot. There’s a lot of great things about both Beijing and Shanghai, and I take nothing away from them. But it’s odd that perhaps (in this writer’s biased view) the best place to actually live isn’t even on the radar. In terms of lifestyle, I only see things getting better in the PRD as transportation between the cities gets even better and, as you say, more of the manufacturing moves inland.