Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chinese Diet and Exercise

Visiting China it became apparent that Chinese are generally thinner than Americans. I don't mean that all Chinese are thin. I saw many overweight Chinese, but I seldom saw obese Chinese.

There are two main reasons for this general observation in my opinion. First, the Chinese generally eat lower energy density foods than Americans. Rice and noodles are staples of the Chinese diet. Vegetables also generally dominate over meat in their dishes. So Chinese foods typically have fewer calories per gram than a Standard American diet. Second, the Chinese generally move more than Americans. There are many cities in China with populations greater than New York City, so a common mode of transportation in these high density populated areas is by foot.

Despite these differences, I don't view China as a healthy mecca. In fact I viewed my visit to China as unhealthy. Setting aside the poor air quality in heavily populated Chinese cities, I think the two advantages listed above are slowly evaporating. The high rate of development in China is the reason. It appears to me that the standard of living is improving in China and many Chinese are enjoying a lifestyle approaching the American standard. The American diet of fast food and meat three times per day is becoming more common in China. The Chinese love to eat meat, and the more that they can afford, the more vegetables are pushed aside. In three visits, I have yet to meat a Chinese vegetarian, pun intended. The other paradigm shift in Chinese culture is that many Chinese are working long hours in an office setting to achieve these higher standards of living. They can afford cars to commute and have little time during the day for moving their body.

I think it is only a matter of a generation or two before Chinese diet and exercise commonly resembles those of Americans, and so will they. Here are some videos from my last trip related to this topic:

Monday, February 18, 2013

China Is Not A Third World Country

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to China again. I stayed in Wuhan for three weeks on company business.  My company is launching a couple of new products in China, one for global consumption, the other for local consumption. Launching a new product is challenging enough, but doing it in a foreign country amplifies the typical problems that arise when starting something new.

Traveling to China multiple times has changed my opinion of this country. My prior view of China was solely based on the media and the fact that China is a communist country. I envisioned a place with unhappy, poor people who have no freedom. In fact, a coworker refused to go because he said he would not travel to a third world country. According to Wikipedia, China is a second world country, whereas the US, UK and "their allies" are first world countries. Based on my experiences China is not going to be a second world country for much longer.

Initially, I had some negative feelings about launching products in China as opposed to the USA. Yes, the cost of labor is lower than the USA, but what I have discovered is that the Chinese are consumers just like us (US). Most Chinese have jobs. They buys homes like we do. They buy transportation like we do, more and more cars. They buy clothes, entertainment and food like we do. They all buy cell phones, many of them are Iphones. China is a huge developing market, to be taken advantage of from a business perspective. As I said earlier, one of the product launches is global. This means the product will be manufactured in China and the USA. The other product is local which means that it will be made, sold and consumed in China. It is sad to see the USA job market shrinking, but I believe that the rate of decline will eventually stabilize just as the rate of growth in China will stabilize. In the near future, being a global company will mean having a sustainable footprint in every country to supply to every market.

The current development rate in China has to be seen to be believed. Yellow cranes perched on top of buildings rising to the sky can be seen in every direction. All of these buildings are 20-30 story buildings. Most buildings appear to be half constructed, or completed but still vacant. There are so many buildings under construction or vacant that I wonder if the government is supporting these projects just for the purpose of employment and no real finished purpose. It is that mind-blowing. Cars, buses, trucks and taxis fill multi-lane highways. The roads and highways are lined with landscaping, sometimes 3 or 4 lines deep. There are so many trees and bushes visible on a commute that one could wonder if the government isn't just a giant nursery supplier. At the same time, China is like an old house under remodel. There are many parts of China that do make one think of a third world. These parts of China are waiting to be torn down to make more room for more construction.

Even my views on communism are less certain. Communism and capitalism appear to cohabitate in China just like democracy and capitalism in the USA. The Chinese pay taxes and pay for insurance. Sound familar? There's no doubt that China has challenges. Air pollution is obvious in densely populated areas. China appears to be addressing this problem by tightening the regulations on air pollution. Beijing is now reporting on PM 2.5: particulates in the air measuring less than 2.5 microns. Also, media restrictions should be loosened. Steps towards free speech appear to be happening as China has their own forms of Youtube, Facebook and blogging that criticizes the government. I even heard discussions about the possible end of the one child policy.

This post ends with a few videos from my trip: