Riding the tiger


Sitting by the window of my Kempinski hotel room overlooking the bridge that connects mainland China with Hong Kong, viewing the incredible transformation that has taken place during the last twenty years, I can only bow my head in admiration. Villages have been converted into bustling cities literally overnight. Hong Kong was the benchmark of skyscrapers, luxury hotels and amazing structures in the east. And I can see innumerable towers including a 100 floor building right here. I’ve seen just two of a plethora of luxury hotels in Shenzhen and both are comparable to the highest quality hotels anywhere in the world.

Beijing was known as the City of Cranes, today every city in China can lay claim to the same fame. The quality of planning and the magnitude of implementation are staggering. Every city I have visited over the last ten years, from the very eastern seaboard to the deepest south is swathed in infrastructural brilliance. Shenzhen simply fits the bill of excellence China strives to create.

China has absorbed Western industrial development and transformed it into creative industrial growth. The Chinese have moved from producers of cheap, low quality products to producing top quality products at competitive prices giving them a significant edge over others. Telecommunications is just one sector where China is predominant. The bulk of the equipment to build and operate networks, from basic to highly sophisticated, is shipped from here now. The world’s flavor is engaging Chinese manufacturing across the board.

The attitude towards closing business deals is equally impressive. Every detail is professionally outlined and specified. They waste no time over frills and fancies; it’s cut-and-dry business. In fact, before you even know it the ball is flatly in your court, your decision awaited. Industrial Estates are an exercise in infrastructural excellence. And the execution of hi-tech industry is outstanding. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit a facility manufacturing cell phones and internet devices built over seven floors of a surgically planned layout. The workers: all women! The quality: outstanding.

Intra-country communication is a breeze. Highway networks across the country are absolutely amazing and of the highest quality making driving over thousands of kilometers a joy. City roads, bypasses, catering to current and future growth are wide in an attempt to address traffic congestion which is an issue due to the massive influx of cars on the roads. You see every make of car, even luxury models, and they are all produced in this country.

International and domestic air travel is equally excellent. I have had the opportunity of seeing half a dozen airports in smaller cities and, believe you me, they are functionally and architecturally outstanding. The number of airlines that exist is amazing. I am safely assuming that the majority of Boeing 737s in the world has made their home in this country.

Its not that everything is totally modern; there are industrial areas in the suburbs of cities that have not yet acquired the same levels. You see the old style buildings, Asian stores similar to ones in modern Pakistan and roads requiring repairs. At the same time, one sees so much recycling going on. A few hundred yards from this new area where this hotel is built, there are two impressive construction sites. One of them is based on pulling down a housing complex, no more than thirty years old and replacing them with a huge mega store. The other is this fantastic, futuristic stadium complex being built to cater to the forthcoming youth Olympics. I only wish the pictures in mind could be transposed here. It’s all about the energy buzz that emanates from a decade of double digit growth. This is where the economic power lies. Asia is buzzing, led by China.

I am not aware of India, not having been there for fifty years, but the other countries of the region, including Pakistan, have not achieved anything even remotely close in the field of planning and execution. Even given the financial limitations, they could have easily achieved order. In fact, this is the one thing that is seriously missing.

We built a brand new city, Islamabad, over the last five decades. It started well but it was planned for the moment, not the future and growth has made it fall apart at the seams. All around it slums, or at least buildings that can easily be described as such, have crept up and dominate. There are perhaps some nice buildings but nothing outstanding unfortunately. In fact, kilometers long awful structures line the Blue Area highway leading to the Presidency. Why complain, I guess one gets what one deserves.

For the moment let me wallow in the luxury of Prada and Samsonite raising billions of dollars in IPOs on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in the coming weeks. There is electricity in the air and I am not letting go of the opportunity to breathe it all in.


The writer can be contacted at [email protected]



  1. In the context of Pakistan, when "Martial Race" is the only
    inculcated National Pride, the end result is somewhat

    Crooks win! Country last…

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