Initial impressions – the city itself is heavily developed. Loads of concrete with some trees sprinkled throughout. Unfortunately, I could not get the sense of the soul of Beijing. There’s certainly a pulse – it moves quickly and is awake almost all the time. The transit is nice, really nice. Its extensive and very well run.
Our counterparts – the Beijing International MBA group studying the Vlerick program through a partnership at Peking University, were amazing hosts. They showed us a few amazing spots to catch the night life. And the best food is on the street, without a doubt. The second best – anywhere local. While most people at these places speak only Mandarin, between everyone, communication was possible. And fun.
I must add… Peking University has a beautiful facility. The old architecture, gardens and ponds are stunning. I would not object to spending a year studying there. It was a serene contrast to the busy rush on the streets of Beijing.
The pollution was not so bad for our visit, it seems. It was certainly obvious, though our local guides told us that we were very fortunate for the period we stayed there.
I was able to find some soul in Beijing – finding the Ancient Architecture museum, buried within a residential area allowed me to get a sense of more local life. And, since the museum is not a very popular attraction, I was able to pass an afternoon learning about ancient Chinese city planning and the evolution of housing structures through the different dynastic periods. I believe there were a total of 4 visitors. It is a shame really, because the overall philosophy of city planning is a revealing reflection of the culture over all.
For night life, we were not there long enough to really explore too many areas, so we mainly stuck to S?nl?tún (Sanlitun), a bright bar street with excellent street food and too many expats for my liking.
As a tier 2 city, Xi’an is not necessarily a hub for any particular business. With around 8 million residents, it’s still enormous. Right off the air plane, the soul of the place was apparent, and much of the traditional or classical styled architecture remains.
About an hour out from the Xi’an city center is the state owned (SOE) aerospace company. Through all of the company visits, I found the executives at this company very open. They were willing to discuss some of the strategy going forward, and acknowledge the work they had cut out for them.
Night life in Xi’an is not so easy to find, but when you find it, it is done in a big style, with really friendly local people. I was able to chat with so many locals (or help them with their very intoxicated friends) as compared to Beijing.
How important is Guanxi? Depends on who you ask, though I would say its as important as a network is in the West, but willing to help you more than in some countries. Certainly, I would go back to either city for a visit or as a career move. There are too many stories to share, and I’m not posting pictures because I have hundreds. Maybe in a separate post.