M & E are good friends. We met them through our ‘main guy’ here in HK but they and their family have been very supportive of us and even my kids when we are in HK and they have also been to visit us on the island. It’s pretty much a stand-alone friendship, albeit infrequent as they live in HK and we do not. Still, we have a lot in common and get together whenever we can. And we did last night. It was great.
When we first met, they had two kids under 12. Today, those kids are 22 and 20. One boy, one girl….one young man, one young woman. They both attend university in California and have done so for a few years. M has a degree and K is two years into hers. They were there with us at dinner (Mongolian hot pot -style) last night. To some extent we reminisced but, of course, just as much time was spent in catching up and learning how their lives have gone. In many, many ways it was ordinary socializing, friendly couples having dinner. All good.
It’s fascinating because we get to ‘live’ a few hours in their world and it is both familiar and alien at the same time. They live in a very nice 700 sft condo in a good neighbourhood overlooking the harbour and have a spectacular view of the city. Living with them is a full-time live-in servant who does the shopping, cooking and cleaning, etc. He’s an engineer and travels to China a lot. She’s the executive assistant to my main friend, D. There were 7 of us in the home that evening.
They picked us up from the tube station (MTR) in their 15-year-old Toyota van that to my eye, looked brand new. In effect, it was. Only 70,000 kms. Driven only on weekends and not every weekend at that. Washed every day. It sits in a parkade with dozens of high-end Porsches and Land Rovers all pristine and rarely moving. All cars are washed every day by the car attendants. It is a display of wealth barely noticed by anyone except the car washer.
When you leave the parkade you walk to the next building by way of a lovely outdoor garden concourse and enter the lobby with the attendant doorman and enter the elevator. All very nice. When you get to their floor, the lobby is small but it hosts only two front doors. There are only two condos to a floor. Add the two suites together and a little something for the mini lobby and each floor of the highrise is under 2000 square feet. We were not at the top of the building but we were on the 27th floor. Can you imagine the profile of the tower..? It was tall and very thin. If you had any doubts about the building you were in, you could look across the street to similar buildings and they were, as they say, impossibly thin as well.
Our friends spent a lot of time living in Ottawa and are thoroughly westernized. But living in HK is also a strong influence so they are also very HK-ish and can surf back and forth in both cultures. Their kids, however, are more western influenced and even have western humour. They are almost ‘Californian‘. It is a lot of fun talking with them.
But one of the greater pleasures is the exchange of information. We tell them our western lives, and they reciprocate. We talk some politics and they tell us theirs. Yes, of course, mutual disgust and distrust of Trump (that’s a given)….but, for the most part, it is just a different perspective on a lot of things. China, for instance……
My engineer friend is very impressed with China’s progress in all things environmental. He is still reluctant to eat Chinese grown produce and such but is pleased that every day sees improvements in that regard, too. Basically Western and HK, E is very pro-China. And, he even suspects that some of the recent foment in Hong Kong (their Occupy/Democracy protests) served the US and may have been CIA supported. Interesting.
One thing is for sure…..he and his son, being in engineering and AI (artificial intelligence), they see the AI future as HUGE. He is predicting rapid development in AI and such (smart homes and self-driving cars and lots of robotics). The view from Hong Kong is a healthy and growing BIG CHINESE BROTHER. He even thinks the Chinese manufacturing sector has yet to really take off!!
When I wrote my first blog on HK a few days ago, I was going on memory and opined that it was a Matrix, a hive of a city and, like most things I write, full of hyperbole and colourful speech. Turns out it was an understatement. It is even MORE built up and even faster paced than it was. HK is an astonishing going-concern but, by my friend’s perspective, still being ‘left behind’ by Shanghai, Beijing and some of the other top cities in China. Hong Kong is my ‘standard’ by which I judge all busy cities and it has slipped in the standings according to E. Unbelievable!
Bottom line: when I first went traveling in the sixties and seventies, Canada and the US were the ‘first world’. Then, after a few decades, we pretended that some others had ‘caught up’ with us (Europe and Japan). But it no longer feels that way. It feels as if we are trailing and trailing badly. And, please understand, I am NOT saying that our life is bad nor that I want any part of this new one emerging but it does seem as if the egg has hatched and major Phoenix is rising. We are no longer number one. And it is a different species emerging………jus’ sayin’….
On the other hand, it was only a dinner with two friends. Maybe I am just easily influenced…..?
Expenditures are clearly a matter of priorities. For several decades the USA has chosen to spend on its military to the detriment of infrastructure spending.
That’s true. But the US is spending from a debt position. China is flush with cash. Spending from the black side of the ledger is easier. Also, they operate as a dictatorship and, in infrastructure building, that is the way to go.
Democracy? Yes. In all things human-oriented, anyway. But in ‘administration of most things institutional and basic’? Maybe not.
Thank you for thinking of us. Surprised there is labor available for menial things like daily auto washing and fluffing pillows in 700 sq/ft digs,not to mention the waste of water.
The google insists that the debt/gdp of china is 275, that beats even japan not trying to be disputatious but as my mentor davidicus might say ‘ just sayin’
I like the strategy of trading infrastructure investments for economic influence. The People’s Republic intends to spend over one trillion dollars mostly in Europe, Asia and Africa on development. The Chinese have invested in many railway projects to get goods to markets.
Interesting perspective. ‘We’ have been conditioned to believe that China is ‘the bad guy’ and see very little evidence otherwise, so it’s refreshing to hear that they’re not total despots.
Happy New Year!
When u come to Hong Kong ?
Hi Niki, Sally has sent you an email. We hope to see you!
Must be an interesting time to visit China with all that’s happening with the States and North and South Korea. Sounds like you have some good friends to make you visit personal. – Margy