Thursday, February 23, 2012

Photo of the Day--February 24, 2012

Today I'm going with Scutt to Dongguan. What is Dongguan, you may ask? Well, if Shenzhen is the wild west compared to Hong Kong, Dongguan is the wild west compared to Shenzhen...or anywhere else on this planet. A run-down city of about 10 million located about 1 hour northwest of Shenzhen, Dongguan had a population boom similar to that of Shenzhen in the 1980's-1990's. However, Shenzhen decided that with this influx of cash in the form of FDI should be built a real economy. Shenzhen built a stock exchange, Hi-Tech parks, great infrastructure, and other things which expanded its value proposition to potential investors to more than just "well, they have really cheap labor". Dongguan, on the other hand, did not.

Consequently, nowadays, as factories continue to move north towards Shanghai, migrant workers are starting to change their tendencies to come to Guangdong. For example, if you're a migrant worker from Heilongjiang, in the far north of China, you could either travel several days and several thousand miles south to Guangdong province, or alternatively you could just go to Shanghai, which is about half the distance. As a result, I've been told that Dongguan's economy is starting to suffer due to the fact that they did nothing to develop a middle class/service sector during their boom years. As a result, once the unskilled, low-cost jobs move elsewhere, Dongguan's population declines.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Dongguan is the New South China Mall. This juggernaut of a building is nearly 700,000 square meters. This is approximately 3 times the size of McCormick Place, Chicago. That is to say, it's really really really really big. However! That does not mean that one can go to the New South China Mall and spend an entire weekend, entire day, or even entire afternoon shopping. Why, you ask? Well, the mall is almost 99% vacant. What? That's almost impressive, to be that bad. Well, yes, the New South China Mall, one of the largest structures in the world, with room for 2,350 stores, has a whopping......27! A very interesting short film was made recently showing the truly remarkable failure of the New South China Mall to be anything other than a really weird, big, empty ghost mall. But anyway, as you can imagine...if Dongguan's most noteworthy attraction is will surely be an interesting place.

So what else is Dongguan noteworthy for? Well, to put it bluntly, prostitutes. Every day, thousands of people from Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and the surrounding areas go to Dongguan for the..."services" rendered. Apart from the obviously morally reprehensible nature of this "industry", I just can't imagine ever feeling so brave as to basically play Russian roulette with a gun loaded with AIDS. Like, come on now. So shocking.

So why are we going to Dongguan? Well, for one, we are staying at an unbelievable-looking 5-star hotel for about $59US for the night. The hotel looks absolutely insane. Additionally, both Scutt and I have the tendency to find an unbelievable amount of entertainment/novelty/general interest in the bizarre, dodgy, and low-brow. Consequently, Dongguan seems to be the place to go! The fact that it's like a $9US train ride that takes about 45 minutes is also a decent reason to go. Plus, we didn't really have anything else to do this weekend. So that's the plan!

Work lately has been good--lots of prep for the US show season, will be leaving on Monday for Atlanta for the HPBA 2012 Expo, staying in the US for 10 days. Needless to say, going to Buffalo Wild Wings any less than 4 times is complete and utter failure. I will have a 4 hour layover in O'Hare on Monday, so if anyone I know in Chicagoland wants to come grab lunch, I will be there and jet-lagged from 11:15am-3:30pm! With an entourage of 3 legendary Chinese men.

So anyway, this blog post is starting to wind down, so before it's too late...the photo of the day!

This very photoshopped (Scutt said it was so photoshopped that it "looked as though someone had painted it") image is some rice paddies behind the factory out in Guangming. It was taken from the very unstable 5th story roof (unstable in the sense that, as I walked across it, my foot definitely made a couple of holes in what appeared to be like plaster roofing). There's a really interesting microeconomy in the factory area--there seem to be a handful of farmers who basically just farm for the slightly better-off, but still obviously quite poor factory workers. I have to wonder if many of the people working on these farms are migrants who want factory jobs, but for whatever reason can't get them, or if they're actually proper farmers by trade who just set up shop out there because of the few thousand people working in these factories. In any case, really interesting and rural area to be found 35 minutes outside of a city of over 10 million.

And with that, more to come tomorrow! Expect something dodgy :-D

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