Send more chianti (or what economic growth feels like)

There’s a little piece in the FT’s Lex Column today about wine in China that reminds me of an experience we had in Beijing:

So fast is the market expanding that China is now Pernod Ricard’s second-biggest market. Sales of its mass-market Jacob’s Creek should grow at 40 per cent this year.

On our second evening in Beijing (staying at the very nice Orchid hotel) we found ourselves at a free wine tasting for an Italian wine importer. The guy doing the importing was in his late twenties and from Italy but had learned Chinese at university and always wanted to move to China. Although he liked wine, he’d never planned to go into the wine business, but now surfing the wave of demand he was cleaning up because there are so few Europeans who can speak the fluent Chinese you need to be an importer. His only problem was getting enough of the stuff into the country.

It’s hard to think of anything where there’s demand like that in Europe at the moment and just reminded me how different an economy feels when there’s so much growth.


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Little things you learn in Beijing

  • The Beijing subway is brilliant but a bit full on during rush hour. I guess you can’t really complain for 20p a ride.
  • Internet use is restricted but VPNs are usually ok and a lot of people use them — it makes me wonder how many UK twitter (or BBC iPlayer) users are actually in China.
  • The argument the Chinese Government uses for blocking some sites isn’t about censorship (they’re actually quite open about that) but that they don’t want American companies to hold lots of personal data about Chinese citizens. Google Docs is blocked for that reason and it’s the same with Facebook.
  • People don’t really buy hot coffees in the summer — it’s all about the iced coffee.
  • The Communist Party has over 50 million members. They vote on stuff fairly often.
  • There’s pretty much a Chinese internet that we don’t see. The vast majority of Chinese internet users access it through their phones rather than a web browser.
  • The electric bikes are brilliant — particularly the tricycles with an motor strapped underneath them. Why don’t we have them in the UK?
  • The tech industry in China has a special place and is given a lot of freedoms and support by the Government. A lot more than the tech industry gets from US or UK governments.
  • Dumplings for lunch — tasty, filling, 50p — what’s not to like?
  • The idea (you often hear in Silicon Valley) that Chinese coders don’t have any creativity is really not true. While it’s arguably behind at the moment the startup ecosystem in China is developing much faster than the US or Europe.
  • Chinese beer is respectable. Chinese wine less so.
  • I’ve started thinking the software patent debacle in the US is more likely to derail the tech industry there than the intellectual property regime in China is here.
  • The plug sockets (see above) are genius and should be compulsory in all hotels and event venues everywhere. They take plugs from pretty much any country you like.