You'd be surprised how many people don't know that in some parts of China the cost of living is more expensive than in the West (they laugh when I say that sometimes), and you'd be equally surprised at how little knowledge most people have of China's global super power status in the world. I spend most my time myth busting because most people in the West (esp. Europe) still have the wrong stereotypical negative image of the country and its people in their minds. I recently came across a highly educated Romanian (Cambridge graduate) who for some reason kept on complaining about everything to do with China. She kept asking me questions such as: Do people ride bicycles in droves there?, Do Chinese eat weird food?, Do they have shopping malls like we do here? Do they have ATM machines in China? Whats the food like? I heard they eat all kinds of meat? and so on. She even mimicked the Chinese accent at one point. It didn't take someone to be Einstein to work out that she was totally unaware of the culture, and at some point came across as xenophobic.
Most people even compare China with India, which I think is wrong because there is no India-China competition. Though I have not been to India since 1998 (I am not an Indian citizen for those that don't know), but having spoken to many people (including native Indians) who have been to India, I can tell you that economically China is perhaps a few decades ahead of India. In my opinion, it would be an impossible task for a country like India to be as successful as China because of many factors including religion in India. Without being stereo-typically negative, the Indian culture comes across as being too conservative/closed compared to China, and that's something that cannot be changed (and should not be changed of course because every country has their own ways of living a life, and that's the beauty of life).
Of course there is a gap between the filthy rich and the desperate poor in China, however the good thing is that everybody gets their bowl of rice. In fact, to think of it, I have come across more people that are homeless and begging on the streets in European cities than I have in China. In some ways London itself does feel like it is the Western version of a 3rd world country because of its poor over used infrastructure (try taking an overcrowded commuter tube/bus/train in London with no air-conditioning!). It's only when you live in China you realize that the West is lagging behind in terms of infrastructure, quality of life, and economic stability.
If you happen to walk in a place such as Shanghai, you'll see that most of the middle class Chinese women are all carrying a Louis Vuitton bag (real not fake!), or wearing Prada glasses, and Gucci shoes. Shanghai really does feel like the Paris of the East. In some of the affluent parts of Shanghai or Beijing if you happen to walk into a Starbucks or a shopping mall, and you happen not to wear any designer clothes then you are not in (yes, it's that important of a status symbol).
I am not a generalist, and not a fan of stereotyping...however it would be somewhat of an accurate observation to say that the typical Middle Class Chinese person probably drives a Maserati or a Mercedes, learns English at Wall Street English (where prices start from around RMB 40,000 for a one year English language learning course!), loves their Starbucks coffee every morning, loves treating themselves to a good Steak meal at a top 5-star hotel, owns an expensive DSLR camera/s, and loves spending money to shop for designer clothes.
In my opinion Shanghai is more expensive than London to some extent (depending on where you live and what your cost of living is). For example, to rent a decent one bedroom accommodation in a nice part of Shanghai (Pudong or downtown Puxi) it costs around at least RMB 7,000 a month (that's about GBP 760, or around USD 1140 a month). Taking a taxi or public transport is still relatively cheaper in mainland China than in London or Hong Kong (taxi rates start at around RMB 14 for the first mile). However, the cost of weekly shopping and eating out at a restaurant might be almost the same as in Hong Kong (though Hong Kong food is more expensive than London sometimes). If, for example, you are going to eat in Xintiandi (trendy fashionable place), then for example the cost of a giant plate of food and a nice glass of wine costs the equivalent of about £15.00. But hey, if someone has lived in somewhere like Sweden, then China wouldn't give you any physical pain every time you come here!.
China's growing abundance of modern infrastructure contains numerous 5-star hotels (some have amazing architecture), world-class international schools (Dulwich College Suzhou for example), large number of airports, and so many other impressive things that are modern and clean - it makes the United Kingdom look like a Western version of a 3rd world country (no wonder why the former PM Tony Blair pays monthly visits to meet the CEOs of Chinese banks!). In some parts of the country, life comes across as being so much better than anything I have come across in Europe that it would make any other global economy envious. The fact is that Europe and America had their time of growth after the World Wars, now its the turn of Asian economies to grow.
This, flamboyancy, of course, does have its kickbacks and downsides. The biggest myth that derives from is that many Western business persons immediately think: 'If I go to China then I can become financially successful!'.
While it always doesn't end up like this (read this), it is true that in the long run, China is the place to be in. That's where the future is, and that's where the money is (in my opinion).
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