After waking up from jetlag at 3:30 and not being able to fall back asleep, I had a long day(I left the house at 7:50 and didn’t return until 23:00), so just some first impressions after my first day on the ground.
After my first shock from not being able to connect to most of my networks on the web yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised by the open discourse from the Chinese participants at today’s seminar on “Finance, Regulation and Risk Management: Getting Rich and Staying Rich” (a dry sounding program that was actually extremely interesting for the most part, and I’m not really a finance person). Nothing was said that could be called criticism of the current government, but there was open acknowledge that some current practices definitely need to change, like making the RNB an international currency. To my surprise, Tiananmen Square was evoked by one of the local participants as a landmark to show how different China is than 20 years ago.
I was also really impressed by the level of English being spoken…the stereotype of the Chinese speaker stumbling over difficult English consonants was totally absent. Those who spoke English spoke it impeccably, and often with a mastery of some fairly subtle idioms and humor. There was just one moment when a Chinese speaker had trouble with the word “accrual”, but who can blame him? Most native English speakers would too! It was a bit ironic that this seminar, held in the French Pavilion at the 2010 Expo was in English 95% of the time, Chinese about four and French about 1%. And I have to say that few of the French speakers justified the stereotype of “ze Frenchie speaking ze Eengleesh like zis” either.
I am looking forward to having more time to report on the content of the seminar in the next few days after I have had a bit of sleep and the pace has slowed down. In the meantime, time to go test whether the coffee taken out of desperation at 16:00 is going to mess with my sleep or whether the fatigue and melatonin will win!