Blog: China Hot Pot
Simon Warburton | 6 June 2016
Given the startling complexity of obtaining a journalist visa for China - the code 'J2' is now indelibly stamped on my mind - it was with some surprise how swiftly I managed to sail through airport immigration in China - the Russians scrutinise visas for an interminable time in comparison.
I'm here for the 2016 Global Automotive Forum (GAF) in the vast metropolis of Chongqing - although you wouldn't know there are a mind-boggling 80m in its greater Metropolitain area - the hotel and conference centre are in Yuelai - around a 1h taxi journey away and surreally quiet for such a huge metropolis.
The Yuelai centre is a real hub for China conferences apparently - its gargantuan size reflects the confidence with which this country - 'new normal' slowdown or not - is still facing with its colossal economy but with undoubted huge opportunities still available - just not at the previous galloping pace.
China still blocks google and accessing information from overseas sites is grindingly slow, but some kind people have weaved some IT magic and I'm hoping their sticking plaster works during the conference and auto show, which is next door, allowing me to file copy.
They take food pretty seriously here, although for Western palates, it's something of a leap into the dark. Of particular pride in Chongqing is its 'Hot Pot.' As a Brit, I know what image hot pot conjures up for me, but here it's: "Pig trachea, duck intestines and fresh cattle blood etc.' I tried not to imagine what the 'etc' consisted of when I had it last night, but I've survived to tell the tale.
Of note too here is the temperature. They call the area around Chongqing, 'Three Furnaces' and you can see why; it's sensationally hot and humid with the mercury making it a challenge walking outside.
I did however, go outside for lunch yesterday and was passed by a special truck allocated to cool the roads, replete with 'ice cream van' sounds, although its water immediately evaporated into vast clouds of steam as it hit the blistering tarmac.
Language is undoubtedly challenging here, but you get by eventually and people genuinely make an effort.
I'm hoping later in the week to get to downtown Chongqing - hour cab ride or not - and see how some of the mobility solutions questions on this week's GAF agenda - are being put into practice.
An 80m population is unimaginable to me - how on earth can any city or greater metropolis cope with such vast numbers in any meaningful way?
But what they have here is obviously space - maybe that's the way to absorb such huge numbers - although as Chongqing is surrounded by vertiginous mountains, it's unlikely they can simply build out.
A sense of the opening remarks at the conference this morning gave a flavour of just how much a brake is being applied to the Chinese economy, but the comparisons have all to be taken into context of its remarkable expansion in the last few years.
Overseas suppliers are increasingly cooperating with domestic component manufacturers and despite the slowdown, the 'new normal' still presents massive potential.
And given the healthy attendance at today's opener - around 1,000 delegates are here - it's clear there's still a genuine feeling this industry continues to form one of the 'pillars' China frequently quotes when it comes to auto.
I'm starting to get a small idea of the scale of things here in China, but really, I'm only scratching the surface of this vast country....