What has and has not changed in Guangzhou

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is the opener:

I hadn’t been to Guangzhou in more than 30 years, and I wanted to see what I would remember.

And here is one bit:

How about the train ride between Hong Kong and Guangzhou? In 1988 I saw lone farmers plowing the field with their oxen. These days the journey brings you through Shenzhen, China’s tech capital, where many iPhones are assembled and which has eclipsed Guangzhou as a source of economic dynamism.

And yet I cannot conclude that Guangzhou is altogether a story of change and change alone.

That all said, Guangzhou is no longer an economic leader in China.  Overall it struck me that Guangzhou has become a bit of an economic backwater, albeit at an enormous size and decent (compared to the rest of China) standard of living.


I really hate to report this, but Matt Yglesias like this essay.


There's been a spate of articles recently about the imminent collapse of China. Here's one that predicts revolution: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/07/opinion/china-xi-revolution-red-aristocrats.html Here's one that predicts runaway inflation: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/business/china-prices-inflation.html Here's one that claims the Trump administration is considering imposing sanctions on China for China's mistreatment of Muslims: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/world/asia/us-china-sanctions-muslim-camps.html And Jack Ma is retiring and Apple may move production of the i-phone from Shenzhen. I suppose it's no coincidence that these stories have appeared during Trump's trade war with China. As for the fate of Shenzhen, China's the capital, I remind readers that the population of Shenzhen in 1980 was about 30,000. Today, it's about 12.5 million.

I wonder if an imminent collapse of the US as a unified country is maybe more likely? California might become an independent pc country while the midwest might also become an independent red neck state. Anyway, 250 years ago the US didn't exist while China occupied almost the exact same piece of territory that it does today.

It's true though that the increase in tensions between China, Russia and the US is due to the gradual decline of the US while China and Russia are gradually asserting themselves more explicitly. I wonder if this process might result into a major conflict or if the state actors will be smart enough to not repeat the mistakes of 1914.

The imminent collapse of China and the Second Civil War in America are roughly equally likely to occur. They are what happens when people have unmonitored access to the Internet. Since I am supposed to refrain from profanity let me just remind you of what a bull does after he's had a full meal.

"That all said, Guangzhou is no longer an economic leader in China."

In what way has it become an economic backwater? I'd say it is still a leader:

Last year, Guangzhou tied for 3rd largest municipality in terms of GDP.
and ranked 5th out of 77 municipalities in GDP per capita.

Tyler likes to make outlandish remarks that are more often than not plain wrong.

Request to TC: could you provide a bit more detail about how you deal with translation logistics?

Not TC, but here are some of my notes, and a personal anecdote.

If using google translate, make sure to download the offline language packs. otherwise, try weibo translate, which is not blocked. The latest version of weibo translate is not on Google play, and supposedly, the camera as input (for signs, menus etc) for Chinese to English translate is great in the latest version. However, I do suspect latest version is not in the google play store because it is spyware or non compliant in other ways. Solution: use a phone specifically for the China trip, and get the latest version of Weibo translate by side loading the app.

My experience buying train tickets from Xian to Beijing:

Waited in line, at big train stations, one or 2 lines serve foreigners. At the front of the line, handed my phone with the translated ticket requirements to the clerk, and she promptly feigned total ignorance, and started selling tickets to desperate (about to miss train) travelers transacting over my shoulder. Solution: called someone bilingual, handed the ticket clerk the phone.

In retrospect: a machine translator creates a Chinese version of chinglish. I would have been better off writing down desired train number, ticket class, date, passenger names on a post it note. Translators are good for cooperative people. Regarding Chinese train stations, imagine buying bus tickets at the DMV. You absolutely do not want to procure your ticket same day you're traveling. Might be worth a service fee for travel agent to avoid the aggravation.

Many thanks!

Apropos of nothing, if you google "Moon Illusion" you get all kinds of nonsense about optical illusion making the moon seem bigger on the horizon, and granted there's some of that going on, but this Chinese astronomer--from Shandong, not Guangzhou--proves Aristotle, who predicted atmospheric 'convex lens' effects, had it right all along (as usual): A New Explanation for the Moon Illusion by Yongfeng Yang, Bureau of Water Resources of Shandong Province

My personal observation from the HK to Guangzhou train ride was that upon crossing the border into Shenzhen, the architecture changed noticeably from something looking like strict zoning and HOA to unzoned free for all.

No worries, General Secretary Xi’s masterful manipulation of the US political process guarantees that he will succeed in making China great again. Using his influence with Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, his intimidation and in some cases outright control of segments of the US higher education industry, and with the assistance of the windup doll chorus in the press and elsewhere mindlessly croaking “protectionism” incessantly, Xi has set the stage for a 116th Congress that will greatly boost Chinese global dominance for many years to come. Herded by along by Xi’s hi-tech industry trained poodles, the new Xi congress will push industry out of the United States and to China with an aggressive legislative agenda reinstating punitive taxation and an endless new stream of regulations for what remains of the for-profit segment of the economy. Xi’s congress will relentlessly undercut Trumps efforts to make “free trade” a two-way proposition, and boost postal subsidies so the US postal service can deliver goods manufactured in China to the US for free. All attempts to meaningfully reform education will be thwarted and US students will continue to graduate no more competitive in the job market than peasant farmers leaving their rice paddies. And US local schools will be overcrowded with boatloads of unaccompanied minors to ensure even the schools with the most exclusive attendance boundaries get pulled down by the demands of educating foreigners. US leadership in medical research and development will be crushed beneath a new raft of Obamacare-bailout price controls. And when the last corporation paying taxes is shuttered, the Xi congress will enact Tyler Cowen’s Georgian land tax plan to stave off default on treasury bonds for a few more months. Yes, things are looking up for Guangzhou.

Sounds serious. I guess we should all kill ourselves.

What I truly admire is how they've made the central government look weak by generating massive amounts of fake corruption.

I also admire edgar's honesty in admitting the United States is too stupid to live. Most people would be ashamed and do almost anything than have to admit that.

A broader view of Guangzhou is that it is the center of a metropolitan area that includes Shenzen and other municipalities linked by a ring transportation system. Its population is about 32 million, which makes it the second largest metropolitan area in the world, with only Tokyo larger. That is the deeper reality.

There is a drunk Hindu outside? On Ramadan?

Yes, he says he wants convert. No, Imam, we do not suspect Claire Daines is his favorite actress.

Well, bring him in.

OT but maybe in the ballpark:

“The economic and financial news channel of Nasdaq-listed NetEase, one of China’s leading internet portals, stopped updating its content from noon on Tuesday for “rectification” of unspecified mistakes.

In a statement on its website and its mobile app, which had the style of a public self-criticism letter, the company did not explain what mistakes had been made.

The decision to close the sometimes outspoken news service comes at a time when Beijing is trying to maintain an upbeat economic narrative to ensure confidence in the economy and prevent further deterioration in financial markets.

NetEase said only that it had encountered “serious problems” and the firm, with a market value of US$24.7 billion, had conducted “in-depth and comprehensive reflections” and decided to close down the channel for an undisclosed period of time.

The suspension of service is intended to “maintain order in cyberspace communications” and “create a clean and tidy cyberspace” – phrases that come directly from a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping in April 2016 and which have since become overriding policy principles for Beijing’s tighter control of the internet.

The statement was published at 11.54am, six minutes before the suspension started. The vagueness of the statement triggered wild guesses about what the channel has done to anger Chinese censors.”


This sort of story is now daily fodder from China.

Can one invest in a nation with a permanent news blackout?

How does one perform due diligence in China? Interesting question.

Answer: The same way you grope in the dark.


I hope that Tyler Cowen, as a member of the media and free peoples, pay some notice to the NetEase news blackout.

In China you hire a lot of private dicks. You send one to find out if goods are actually being produced at factories, pallets are being unloaded and so on. And then you hire a second private dick to make the first private dick isn't just dicking around.

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