Thursday, November 11, 2010

A View of China's Opportunity and Challenge for Indiana

The morning began with a quick breakfast. My family always asks about the food in China. I must admit that I had concerns about what it may be like when we came here in June with the Lt. Governor's agriculture mission. I have been very impressed with the cuisine on both trips, even if some of the choices are an adventure. Breakfast at the hotel offers a real assortment of choices, from traditional Chinese dishes with vegetables, meats, mystery materials wrapped in a noodle, to more recognizable fair, eggs, bacon, ham, omelettes, and cereals. I usually hedge my bets for breakfast with a plate of known items (my favorite: a collection of cheeses, some dried fruit, a hard roll, and coffee) with an additional plate of "outside of the comfort zone" items, like sausages, smoked fish, fried things, and the like. Yesterday I had two fried eggs, some slice ham, and a little round thing that I think had something to do with a pumpkin. All were delicious, and I have yet to find something inedible. I especially like the juices, orange, grapefruit, watermelon, and a couple of others that I do not recognize. They place the vegetable/fruit that identifies the juice next to the pitcher on the buffet. All are fresh squeezed and I am sure it is the best orange juice I have ever had.

After breakfast and packing, I successfully connected on a Skype call to the family to tuck in the kiddos (they still are so interested in time difference, wishing me good morning when I tell them good night). Then it was nose to the grindstone, catching up on business from back home. When I went to the lobby to check out, a new opportunity to experience China was available. While most of the group is taking the bus to Hangzhou, a small group was organizing a trip on the high speed train, just recently completed. For a small fee, about 20 dollars, the high speed train would take us to our destination. I was more than willing to pay the cost to have the train experience. I write this note from the comfortable seat in the 4th car, traveling at speeds of up to 350 km/hr (around 150 mph, if the conversion table can be trusted).

The view from the train is a better look at the countryside than what has been available by the bus, with a good look at some different land use. The farm fields are very small, and the workers are many. Rice must be in harvest season, and the open station mechanized harvesters are followed by a team of support workers following behind, gathering up the bounty, that appears in sacks dropped in the field. Other workers are tending fields of other crops, with wheel barrels, hoes, and hand seethes. One worker looked like he stepped off the cover of the Led Zeppelin album. It is immediately apparent that the level of mechanization is well below what we come to expect in our country. Yesterday we saw some rice spread out in the street, a very common method of using the sun to dry the crop. Understanding this part of the culture allows for a much deeper understanding of the opportunity and challenge that China holds for Indiana companies and citizens.

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