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Urumqi, XInjiang province 2005:

Aug.’03_ I had the chance to fly nearly five hours north of Shanghai to visit Urumqi a small city of 2.3 million people in Xinjiang province the most north eastern part of China – the largest province in China.
Flew up on a Thursday morning and was greeting inside the security area of the airport by the GM of the five star hotel owned by the local corporation that
intended to do business with our southern business partners (the reason for the trip).

Taken to lunch in a private dining room twice the size of my apartment in Shanghai.
In the afternoon chauferred around the various local markets in a classic American limo.

That evening the first of many banquets hosted in a local restaurant featuring Cantonese food owned by one of the GMs of a local construction company (also looking to do business in the future).
Endless rounds of toasting “gambei” and food
shovelled down you until you are fit to burst.
The meal was hosted by Mr Mi (Chairman Hualing Grp).
Two separate rooms – Mr Mi (muslim/Han) moved from room to room during the evening – a multi-tasker obviously -separate deals in the future with various parties.

One room is for party from a Beijing Construction company. In our room sat the Guangdong (Southern China)
Construction people, Mr Yuan-the Chairman had yet to arrive.
A woman representing a local investment
company (she is the daughter-in-law of the Premier of Xinjiang Province), couple of other reps of local Govt.
Much toasting, with the highly regarded baijiu (smells like nail polish remover-tastes like acetone) firewater.
The local dry red wine is high in tannin-too sharp – its called Loulan – they have been growing wine here for 2000 years but have never bothered to improve the taste.
Chauferred back to the hotel – the others stay up most of the night playing mahjong.

Day 2 – Slow drive out of Urumqi with its streets teaming with diversity – 2.3m population.
Were’re only 4.5 hrs flight from Shanghai but the temperatures are down to 28-30 degrees daytime (its summer) and 18 degrees night compared to 40 degrees and 28 degrees nighttime in Shanghai..
Winter temperatures here are down to minus 20-30 C.

As with all of China north of the Yellow River, central supply stations pump hot water to most buildings and so the locals maintain that the inside temps are more bearable than we experience in Shanghai (we are of course south of the Yellow river…..and its every householder for him/herself).

I LOVE the racial diversity here – it doesnt feel like China – its feels more exotic.
Of the 2.3 million people, 74% are Han (who comprise 90% of China nationally), 11% Uighur (pronounced WAYger), and the other 15% comprise the remaining 46 minorities (China has approx 55 minority races – these are the hidden faces of China.)
Xinjiang is the largest China 1.66mill.sq.kms. Its the most western pt.of China.

The beautiful Tienshan Mountains (still capped in ice) visible from downtown Urumqi, just 30 minutes drive to Nth of Urumqi are over 6,000 m high & are over 1500 kms long, running east/west.

A bus (the company bus) has been given to the guests from Beijing, Guangdong province and Shanghai to travel south east (2.5 hours) to visit the ruins at the western edge of the “Old Silk Road”.
We escape Urumqi in just 15 minutes.
A herd of 50 camels spotted 40mins to east of Urumqi. A wind power farm nearby sprouting the largest concentration of (Danish-supplied) wind turbines in Asia – they turn slowly in the strong wind, at about half a hertz per second, resembling a herd of ungainly insects.

Turpan, (about 200 kms east of Urumqi) marks the start of the Old Silk Road.
The road to Turpan cuts thru a canyon midpoint.
Either side of the shale hills are shale &
riverstone wastelands that stretch 30-50kms from Tienshan Mts across the highway & beyond to distant sandhills in the south.
The same loose sprawling riverstone moonscape cut thru with mountain-fed watercourses, that constantly change and undermine buildings & walls-this uninviting
almost alien sliced and diced countryside runs for most of the 200kms journey.

Turpan is home to 500,000 Ughurs. The countryside is suddenly and miraculously verdant green, vineyard country…..has been for 2000 years – a true oasis.
Marco Polo & countless other traders/travellers have trod this way on their way to China’s ancient capital Xian, in Shaanxi Province in their search for whatever the east (then called “The Middle Kingdom” had to offer.
What people those ancient travellers and traders were – it was arduous enough travelling in a small bus – let alone walking behind a caravan comprised of 10-20 camels for months on end!
The temps (it had been raining in Urumqi [24 deg.C] had now soared to 45 deg.C+ in Turpan.

The ground temperature is measured electronically @ a tourist stop (near the fabled Monkey King’s Red Mountain) and here it measured 53 degrees C.
It had been as high as 65 degrees C.
We are in an area of land about 300 meters below sea level (similar to the Dead Sea in Israel).

A few kms past Turpan, lay the mud brick ruins of Gaochang (2000 yrs old). Outside is a small noisy caotic market run by Uyghurs, small kebab stalls & melon sales.
I was of course in jeans-totally unprepared for the high temperatures and slowly staggered around for most of the day feeling like something the dog dragged home.

“The sky is bluer here-high wispy cirrus clouds similar to my memories of my weeks in the Himalayas.”
Karez, is next, a small settlement, a few kms back towards Turpan, hidden down 5kms of tree screened concrete slab road-small vineyards on one side, bare sand on the other.

A tired faded museum recalls the labour of the Uyghurs over the last 2000yrs.
They used hand tools to dig underground irrigation tunnels, that transformed after some kms into open channels to irrigate the vineyards….it was a case of, “dig and live”….nothing could survive out here without this precious mountain water.

Hundreds of kms of conduits for cold Tienshan mountain water. Moved up the road to the local “Grape Valley”- offering a slew of small restaurants and stalls selling fresh fruit.
Lunch on tables outdoors under the overhanging grapes reminding me of Crete.
The locals cooking lamb over an open fire, loads of grapes and raisins freshly picked. Tables became beds in the evening – its seemed most people slept outside in these temperatures.

The colourful red, green, turquiose carpets are draped over every piece of furniture…….”sometimes, life can be very good!”
The locally made thick white noodles which tasted really delicious, mixed with vegetables and lamb in steaming hot bowls, certainly came back to ‘haunt me’ and I only just made it back to my hotel room five hours later……
“Montezuma’s revenge”…..ahhh aint life grand!

Day 3 – The same bus picks most of us (the Beijing party have gone elsewhere) up from the hotel front door, this time accompanied by the local entrpreneur Mr Mi (reputedly worth some $US 600 million) who sat beside the driver and chatted with all and sundry.
Today I had an interpreter – a local Uighur woman who was his GM import/export.
Our first visit was to his house sitting on five acres of land, behind an old office & factory block. It is only 15 minutes drive west of Hotel.

Can you imagine walking through the orchard of a property owned by a Chairman of a large corporation in the west – as part of an introduction to a company?
We then walked through his vegetable garden to his private menagerie (peacocks, emus and even wolves [kept in a private stinking cage].

Next stop was to grind some corn flour using these ancient grindstomes (some of us got our hands dirty pulling the grindstomes around) kept in a large structure behind his garden.
His School for 600 orphans is located in the next property to the house.
Next stop the orphanage/school, where kids are brought to him from all over Xinjiang Province, following one of the many earthquakes in the souhtern region near Kashgar (Kash as the locals call it).

20 kids are playing soccer on “the only grassed soccer pitch in Urumqi”.
The kids are happy and well dressed and run over to Mr Mi surrounding him and chattering as if he was their father.
He also runs (in a large warehouse attached to the orphanage/school) a training workshop for the local unemployed.

Now a little business –
We drive to a large 7 square km site, future
project. Presently, mainly wasteland, stones, with a small abbittoir, & showroom.
After inspecting the small cutting chain (apprentices practicing), empty slaughterhouse, freezers-we move to the usual meeting room arrangement, leather chairs in a “U” shape.

The most important places are where the left side of the ‘U’ mts the base – here the host & the important guests sit.
The host can choose either the seat @ the base, or on the left edge. The future project ( sprawling abbatoir, factories and auctioneering facility) is discussed in broad terms-no search for pledges or commitments @ this stage.

Next we drive over to the foothills of the Tienshan Mountains to visit what turns out to be a Kazak village – only 45 minutes away by bus.
“I am sitting opposite a lake across from snow covered peaks, 40min SE of Urumqi.”
Surrounded by a Khazak circular tent encampment (perhaps 50-60 tents) perched precariously on steep grassed (this time) hills rising higher into pine thickets, peaks above, shrouded in mist.

As we arrive we are set upon by 12 Kazaks on horses looking for riders for baksheesh of course. No takers – we elect to eat lamb kebabs cooked beside the tent. The taste of the local lamb is wonderful – perhaps its the mountain air??

Inside the tent we removed our shoes & sat on cushions laid on richly embroidered carpets, matching the walls -garish reds, purples, pinks, orange, yellow flowers on wild splashes of blue & crimson.

The 12 reps of 3 companies sat around a 30cm high table, covered in local breads, fruit & cold meat. After lunch (which included more lamb, hogget melting off the bone, chicken & goats head), the men sat down to play poker (Mr Mi supply’g RMB 20,000 cash for the bets)….remember this is another business day and these people are here to talk about a RMB 5 Billion ($US 600 million deal to be consummated in three months or so)….haha this is Xinjiang I love it here!!

I walked up the mountain path wearing my black Kazak waistcoat, black Khazak hat borrowed against the cold (I’m in suit trousers & white business shirt-as usual totally inappropriate attire) – the temperatures were now down to about 10 degrees C.

Halfway back down the muddy path I’m picked up by a Kazak boy on horseback-told to get on.
I was in the middle of receiving a marriage proposal from one of the local women (at least I think that what she was proposing – I took it that she was overcome by my magnificent appearance in local Kazak garb). Anyway up up and waaaaaayyy – on horseback in my business clothes, up the steep muddy hillside to a ridge overlooking the camp.

A couple of the party are there with Helen my interpreter, looking very comfortable astride these wiry, surefooted small horses bred by the Kazaks. During the day Helen had relaxed & expressed tentatively @ first, then more openly, her frustrations as a Uighur living in a Han world.
Its 6.20pm & I am missing the AB’s game against Australia – stuck up a beautiful mountain surrounded by laughing Kazaks – ahh well, I guess I can miss one game now and then.

7.00pm card game is finally over – the money has been redistributed, the kitty is spent.
We clamber back in the 20 seater coach, its bloody cold and we begin the slow rough drive over potholed-shingle tracks-15mins, to rough asphalt road.
This place apparently offers skiing in winter.

Dinner in the hotel:
5 Xinjiang dancers in bright costumes performed one by one for over one hour as we ate.
Two large tables. Three companies @ one table, one company @ the other table.
Much toasting, by individuals who get out of their seats and stand by the seat of the recipient.
Before I can toast my friend from Xinjiang, Ming Lan whom I had met in Shanghai some six months ago, I must observe protocol & toast Mr Mi (host) then Mr Yuan (Chairman. from the southern Guangzhou company).

The dancers @ behest of the MC (Han Chinese Opera singer in her 40’s), take turns to invite men from the guestlist to dance to the wonderful Xinjiang music.
(Mr Yuan receives most invitations-I receive one, @ one point all the dancers return & invite all the men to dance.
I stagger awkwardly around the floor, arms
outstretched as if I’m having Albatross lessons,
smiling @ the exquisitly costumed performer in front of me.

Flowers are given out-recipients are said to be
lucky in love (I got one – a marvellous irony).
Mahjong is played until 4.00am by Mr Zheng & Mr Yuan & colleagues.

Day 4- Picked up in limousines (classic Lincoln + a Merc 600) & drive across town to Ming Lan’s office-Xinjiang branch of Guandong Construction Group.
“U” shape meeting room once again.
More discussion on future building projects for GDIC.
Eating local fruit finishes meeting.

Gift giving – white jade (sheep fat) pendants, 6 boxes fruit, 6 bottles wine.
Back to Hualing Hotel to checkout-all accomodation and airfares – the entire four days have been paid for by Mr Mi-farewell from Mr Mi & Mr Yuan.

Drive to airport in Merc.600, luggage in Lincoln limo. Most of this trip has been for me a hugely interesting contrast as to just how business is conducted in China – how parties meet, how relationships are formed – the delicate approach to business issues – constructive discussions on future business are lowkey initially and very much secondary. The key is relaxation, a kind of formal informality as only the Chinese can accomplish, “person to person – open, and quite enlightening”.
—– ——
Notes taken from the internet XINJIANG PROVINCE:
The region, which the Chinese government formally identifies as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, covers about 636,000 square miles–four times the
size of California. Its vast stretches of arid dunes and forbidding mountains contain oil reserves estimated at up to 40 billion tons, accounting for nearly two-fifths of China’s total.

The region also contains nearly 40% of China’s coal, as well as rich resources of gold and copper.
In the glacier-fed oases that lie between the deserts and mountains, Xinjiang’s dozen or so minority nationalities coexist uneasily with the majority Han Chinese. The minorities are tied across political boundaries to their ethnic relatives in the Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union.

Xinjiang’s minorities–the largest of which are the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs–have resisted assimilation by virtue of cultural, linguistic and geographic differences. “We have nothing in common with the Chinese people or their culture,” said Huji Tuerdi, a Uighur native of the city of Kashgar who now lives in the United States. “Even though they think their culture is superior to ours, we find they have nothing attractive to us except the superior technology, which they also got from the West.”

The resentment is apparently mutual. Han Chinese often gripe about preferential treatment they believe minorities are getting. They often view minority religions and customs as tokens of backwardness.

Han chauvinism reached fanatical heights during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when mosques were razed, public prayer was banned, Koranic schools were shut down and Han settlers raised pigs in Muslim neighborhoods in violation of Islamic prohibitions.
Like Tibetans, Xinjiang’s minorities complain that they are being swamped by a flood of ethnic Han Chinese from the crowded east.


Moving money around – the Chinese way:

China, once a magnet for global money, is now watching cash stream out.

Wealthy Chinese citizens are frequently moving cash secretly through a flourishing network of money-transfer agents. Chinese companies, for their part, are making big-ticket foreign acquisitions, buying up natural resources and letting foreign profits accumulate overseas.

China hasn’t reported on capital inflows and outflows since last year, but it is possible to gauge more recent flows using trade data, foreign-exchange reserves numbers released Saturday and other economic statistics. A Wall Street Journal analysis of that data suggests that in the 12 months through September, about $225 billion flowed out of China, equivalent to about 3% of the nation’s economic output last year.

China officially maintains a closed capital account, meaning it restricts the ability of individuals and businesses to move money across its borders. Chinese individuals aren’t allowed to move more than $50,000 per year out of the country. Chinese companies can exchange yuan for foreign currencies only for approved business purposes, such as paying for imports or approved foreign investments.

In reality, the closed system has become more porous and the rules are routinely ignored. “The wealthy in China have always had an open capital account,” says Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist and former International Monetary Fund official.

China’s $50,000-a-year limit on moving capital out presented a problem for him. He says he got around the restriction by recruiting friends to move chunks of his money under their own names. Real-estate agents in China say that is a common practice that is largely tolerated by authorities.

For years, China’s economy benefited from large flows of cash into the country from exports and from foreign investors. Incoming dollars were exchanged for yuan at China’s central bank, putting more yuan into the economy. That made it easier for banks to lend and companies to grow, but it also stoked inflation and contributed to real-estate and stock-market bubbles.

The outflow helps explain why China’s banks have been slow to increase lending this year. Accelerated outflows might force China’s central bank to push the yuan to appreciate more strongly against foreign currencies, to encourage Chinese investors to keep their money in the country.

In 1998, during the Asian financial crisis, Indonesia saw the equivalent of 23% of its annual economic output leave the country—far higher than the 3% estimated to have exited China over the recent 12-month period. China’s economy is protected from such catastrophic outflows by its restrictions on capital movement and by its substantial foreign-currency reserves, currently $3.29 trillion.

The Journal’s $225 billion estimate for the year ended in September captures both legal capital outflow and some of the illicit flow. Several economists also have attempted to calculate outflow. Charles Dumas, an economist at Lombard Street Research, estimated net outflows of $300 billion over the same period.

One factor contributing to the reduced reserves is that Chinese exporters are keeping more of the money they make abroad in dollars, rather than converting it to yuan, economists say.

Because the $225 billion figure is derived from broad economic statistics, it is impossible to say how much of the outflow is legitimate personal and corporate transactions and how much was moved illegally or was the product of illegal activities.

A sprawling industry has developed to help Chinese get money out. Services range from the money-transfer agents to private jets that ferry money by customs officials unmolested, according to lawyers and brokers who help Chinese investors find investments abroad. Sometimes bank transfers by companies hide personal money being moved out, these people say. Another method is to piggyback personal cash atop legitimate export and import transactions, at times by using fake invoices, they say. People even carry bags of cash across the border.

Hong Kong, although part of China, has a separate financial system and currency—and no restrictions on outbound capital. Consequently, there are restrictions on mainland Chinese moving money to Hong Kong.

One legal way that some elite Chinese have gotten money offshore is by taking their companies public in Hong Kong, then selling shares.

Macau, like Hong Kong, is part of China but has its own financial system, and mainlanders face the same restrictions on moving money there. Gamblers frequently use the services of local “money lenders” in Macao, and subsequently need money to pay off their casino debts. The problem is getting it out of China.

Some punters use their company structures to transfer cash into accounts set up by associates elsewhere in China, claiming the transactions were for approved purchases. Then equivalent amounts in Hong Kong dollars would be deposited into separate accounts belonging to the entities that had lent the punters the gambling money.

“No funds actually cross the border, so this method is difficult to detect and impossible to measure,” says Stephen Green, head of China research at Standard Chartered Bank, who has studied Chinese money flows.

Its all part of the ‘brave new world’.

Xian – wealth out West

I initially had business dealings with Xian in 2005. A Taiwanese developer was seeking FDI for a new real estate project – that is another story with a unique lesson.
The West in China, is commonly spoken about as a vast region that is lagging behind the Eastern regions (Bohai, Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas)_yet, Xian, the ancient capital of China is in need of no assistance.
Xian is 1400 kms west of Shanghai. A nine million population with a GDP/capita of only USD 7k, however, a city that is booming.

The Hurun Report in 2011 states that Xian has 7,000 USD millionaires, including 300 citizens over the USD 16m threshold.
Xian was the capital of China 2,200 years ago when the first Emperor to unite all of China, Qin Shi Huang, ruled. Qin Shi Huang outshone beyond China by his Terracotta Warriors.In 2009 we visited Xian again, the circumstances of these trips were more profitable.
It is certainly interesting watching the locals creatively use their guangxi.
This was one ‘guangxi scenario’ in Xian, it involved the head of the local Aerospace Development Corporation.
A Ms Qiu (architect) wanted to do business with a Mr Y from the Aerospace company. To get an introduction she called her old classmate (a strong connection in China).
The husband of said wife worked with Mr Y. The husband, prior to the first meeting (the dinner we attended in Xian) contacted a Professor friend from his old university. The Professor contacted my colleague and another Professor at his university.
A couple of taps of the magic wand and we all appear a couple of weeks later in Xian. Why these associations? (I’m there as the token white man).
Mr Y wants some “assistance’ with his English paper; an English Professor appears from Shanghai. The original Professor wants to do business in Xian and brings my colleague to explore commercialising and taking the Aerospace technology to other cities in China. So behind the Maotai, the incessant toasting, the bruised livers and the never-ending cuisine, the evening continues. One of the meals was up in the nearby mountains; visiting a fish farm and restaurant for more drinking, toasting and food. Those evenings expanded into reciprocal Shanghai visits by all parties and further discussions.
Downtown Xian has this marvellous wall marching around the rectangular heart of the CBD, it manages to mesh and not be overshadowed by the sprawling commercial developments. The 14 km long, 1400 year old wall replete with watch towers is stunning.
On one visit we met with a Xian Town Planner who was recreating a modern version of ancient Xian as part of massive developments in Qujiang District on the outskirts of Xian.
He had been so impressed with a visit to Christchurch he decided to emulate that NZ city’s layout and of course hired an Australian Architect to recreate the design back in Xian (work that one out).

From Bricks ‘n Mortar:

China has an abundant supply of r2riches studies. Mr W was born in a village two hours out of Shanghai. His family was large; money scarce. With only an elementary-school education, Mr W aged 14 started working as an apprentice mason. He soon became a foreman.
In the early ’80’s, aged 21, Mr W, formed his own construction team and began bidding for projects. Twenty years later, his booming company had become one of the top private companies in China.
Nine years ago, looking for a sunrise industry, Mr W by then in his early 40’s, with a USD 25m investment, leapt into new media.
Leveraging local Government support and attracting young talent from all over China, Mr W is now declaring that in five years, half his company’s turnover (USD 1.2 B) will come from his new media venture.
When Mr W decides to undertake a project, he doesn’t procrastinate. And he’s not afraid to take risks.
His long-term goal is not only to be dominant in China, but to become one of the largest new media companies in the world.
His second platform is subsumed by the third, with his latest venture; building a massive theme park in China, with an investment of USD 500m.
Not yet 50, Mr W’s star continues to rise, unrestrained by his beginnings as an apprentice mason with no formal education beyond elementary school.
Mr Wu has stringent goals for his new venture – a focus on creativity; a unique cultural style. The number of visitors, boundless creativity; the return on investment has to be better than foreign benchmarks and achieved more quickly.

This is the man now looking at investment in Australia. Will it be new media, commercial projects, mining or infrastructure development; all options are on the table.

Increasing interest in Fixed Assets

If we look at investments reported in Australia by Chinese companies – both state owned and private, these invested a total of $3.2 billion in Australia in 2011, an 86 per cent increase from 2010.
A senior trade official from the Chinese Embassy, Shi Ziming, was reported recently saying, “Chinese private companies were likely to lead the next wave of Chinese investment abroad despite the present dominance of state-owned enterprises. Private companies accounted for more than 50 per cent of Chinese investment abroad last year. Private enterprises will definitely play a more and more important role in the process of the nation’s outbound investment activities.”

This is certainly our experience. If we look at the significant clients coming to us over the last 15 – 18 months via our Shanghai office, they are predominantly company owners representing a range of manufacturing, medical, IT, service and property development sectors. They are anxious to make investments in real assets in Australia.

Chinese private investment in Australia is still to develop real momentum, despite what is happening in other western economies.

With an eye on Chinese overseas real estate investment – compare Sydney or Melbourne with the activity in London. In 2011 Chinese buyers accounted for 28% of all prime London property sales and 54% by sales value in the prime central London area, where houses go for 5 million pounds ($8 million) on average, according to a recent report by Savills research.

“If the money from China were to start flowing into London at the same rate it does from billionaires in other countries, we would expect the value of ultra-prime London properties to grow by as much as 15%,” Yolande Barnes, head of Savills residential research told China Daily.

Putting the billionaires to one side – China’s middle-class population (defined as those with annual income of at least US$17,000) has reached more than 100 million as of 2011, while the number of HNWI’s worth more than 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million) is estimated to be 825,000, according to Hurun Report (2011).
Classifications come and go, but the wealth marches on.
In recent visits our clients have shown great interest in real assets in Australia. The real assets attracting particular interest include commercial and residential real estate, agricultural land and to a much lesser extent, precious metals and commodities.
They are buying selectively and typically have a long term view.

Learning to Read

Whatever commercial skills serve you well in the west do not necessarily translate across to life, doing business in the Middle Kingdom – often, nothing survives this transition between anz and sino cultures.
Yes guanxi (relationship/connectedness) is important and of course, this is not gained by flying in and out, nor spending weeks on the road, being wined, dined, presenting and being presented to. All this does is fill your bags on your return (to blue sky and fresh water) with business cards and ‘business cases’ – but you are no clearer as to what is compelling, profitable, right or wrong for your particular circumstances.
Opportunities abound, prospects overwhelm; never enough time to consider, question, evaluate, – weeks need 10 days, but each week wouldn’t be long enough….doing business in China it as if you were looking into a barrel of squirming, seething eels….each entity constantly writhing, sliding, improvising – rarely is one stationary.
You may or may not speak Mandarin – I dont think that is important – but – you do have to learn to read people and situations FAST. It will save you time, money and the need to drink appalling alcohol, gambei’g your way unnecessarily through another liver or two.
Our years living and working in China since 2003 have allowed us to run the gambit, continue, learn, adapt and break through into real opportunity, maintaining guanxi with significant investors. Now, confidence and anticipation.

Investors in Inner Mongolia:

In early September this year we flew north from Shanghai to hold a number of meetings in two cities in Inner Mongolia. The interest from the locals was not in bricks’nmortar, but in rural businesses in Australia.
The prospects we met had assets from USD 50m to USD 100m. Australia was unknown territory, the US not so.
Their back grounds ranged from finance, real estate development to mines. Only one gentleman was Mongolian, the others, Han; living in Inner Mongolia for a number of generations. Beijing was the place they gravitated towards- perhaps it would be easier to meet them there in future.
Driving across Inner Mongolia provided an interesting slice of history. We made time to visit certain G.Khan/Mongolian Museums. As most artifacts had been destroyed during the Cultural Revloution, one was more of an art gallery (this is the way we believe they looked).
The rolling lush pastures of Western Inner Mongolia were in stark contrast to the sharp, treeless, shale hills and valleys of the central zone.
These people are hardy. The dust (that begins here and plagues central Beijing each Spring) swirled mercilessly in the lee of the hills, the homes squalid and single level in the rural areas.
Yet fortunes have been made here in minerals; coal the main industry.
Each city in complete contrast to the other. One unplanned, sprawling, rutted roads, old construction, with much of the new high-rise stalled and unfinished.
The other city neatly laid out, orderly with obvious signs of Govt over-investment; quality roads with little traffic and streets lined with high rise dwellings finished and often empty.
The locals we met (the top 1%) were contented with their life style. The prospects from each of the two city’s despised the inhabitants of the other. The tea was similar to Tibetan tea, salt, soup, butter and other ‘delicacies’.
The money is there and a williness to look abroad.
Inner Mongolia – Population 24,706,321; GDP (2011 – US$ 8,854 per capita (6th region in China). This is surprisingly high.
Ethnic composition Han – 79%; Mongol – 17%; Manchu – 2%; then the rest.

Investing in Vineyards

Mr Z is an entrepreneur from a small city outside of Shanghai. He is worth USD 200 m. He runs a successful private textile manufacturing business established 15 years ago.
Late 40’s; he thinks fast, moves fast. He is always looking for the gap, the break on his competitors.
Naturally, he is open to moving into new markets, new industries, new segments.
He had expressed interest in purchasing a vineyard in Australia. In five days he saw what he wanted to see and he returned to China.
The vineyard will be only part of his Australian portfolio.
He will of course employ a local management team in Australia.
Mr Z represents a large segment of street smart and fast moving investors.
He doesnt rely upon screeds of financial and opportunity sensitivity analysis.
A potential investment is seen in the simplest of terms.
Is is making money – is it profitable?
How can I add value?
What will it cost me?
Decision made.
In five years he will retire – but, not now!

Corporate Finance in NW China:

The big lesson in life in NW China is – business does not come first in this part of China. First you relax together – “become friends”.
In November 2004, I had the chance to fly nearly five hours north of Shanghai to visit Urumqi a small city of 2.3 million people in Xinjiang province the most north western part of China – the largest province in China.
We flew up on a Thursday morning and were greeted inside the security area of the airport by the GM of the five star hotel owned by the local corporation seeking investment finance (the reason for the trip).
Day one – An interesting drive in from the airport to the centre of Urumqi. We had been provided two classic 1950’s American limos (one for me and my colleague, one apparently for the luggage). The drive took us past seething fruit, silk and carpet markets, mosques and a cityscape, definitely more Central Asian than Han Chinese. Different clothing, body shape and facial structures than in Eastern China. Interesting – it wasnt China, but of course , it was.
All main road signs were in Arabic and in Chinese. In the streets an occasional glimpse of an armed soldier accompanying each policeman on foot patrol. We were taken to lunch in our hotel in a private dining room twice the size of my apartment in Shanghai.
In the afternoon we were chauffeured around the various local markets, up to Red Hill with its red brick towers with wonderful views of the snow capped Tianshan mountains behind Urumqi and to Qinghai Mosque. I was beginning to understand, business does not come first in this part of China. First relaxation – “become friends”.
That evening the first of many banquets was organised and hosted in a local restaurant featuring Cantonese food owned by one of the GMs of a local construction company (also looking to do business in the future).
Endless rounds of toasting “gambei” and plates of food, arriving, queuing at the door without mercy.
The meal was hosted by Mr Mi (Chairman of the Hualing Group).
Across two separate rooms- Mr Mi moved from room to room during the evening; a multi-tasker, toasting the significant individuals in each group, those that represented potential “co-operation” in the near future.
One room is filled with the baijiu-fueled revelry from a Beijing Construction company. We were across and down the hall.
In our room sat the management team from a Guangdong (Southern China) Construction company. Each time Mr Mi appeared back in our room, one woman dominated the toasting with Mr Mi. She was apparently the daughter-in-law of the Premier of the Xinjiang Province. She ran a local investment company. Her male companion insisted on random karaoke outbursts as the baijiu took over. A couple of other local Govt officials made up the numbers, all deference and smiles.
There was much toasting, with the highly regarded rice wine, “Maotai” or baijiu which smells like nail polish remover and is about 70% proof – paint stripper!
The local dry red wine favoured here is branded, “Loulan”. It is high in tannin; set your “teeth-on-edge,” high. They have been growing wine here for 2,000 years but I assume have never thought it necessary to improve the taste.
We were chauffeured back to the hotel around 11:00pm – the other business guests from our party stayed up most of the night playing mahjong in one of the business lounges.
Day one in a suit.
The next three days always began in the same manner.
We would be told to be in the foyer at 8:30am and we would be collected by a representative of our host. We were of course never given an agenda, so we just assumed business would be discussed at some point. But until the middle of the third day no business discussions were initiated, and business was only brought up after we had visited the beautiful home of the Chairman of the Hualing Group.
Mr Mi insisted we stroll through his gardens, inspect his large outdoor meagerie of exotic tigers, peacocks; stroll through and taste fruit from his orchards; he had us grind maise in an old millstone – all in his garden; in a suit of course.
One day we ended up travelling 500 km along the Silk Road. It was 45 degrees C on an Autumn day as we arrived in Turpan, home to the indigenous Uyghurs.
I suppose staggering under a scorching sun in a suit along a potholed dusty track beside the mud brick ruins of Gaochang (a 2000 year old settlement) looking for water, was no less incongruous than that experienced the following day, riding a Khazaki horse in the mountains. That suit rode well.
The sturdy little Kazakhi horses took us high onto a ridge over-looking a beautiful valley to the south of Urumqi. Inside a large domed Kazakhi tent, the Chairman of the Hualing Group had organised cards, money, cushions, low rise tables laden with salads. The interior of the tent was strikingly bold with carpets in rainbow colours. Outside, locals cooked on a spit the most mouth watering lamb Id ever tasted. The gambling took three hours and eventually the money was redistributed – we returned for more dining, more toasting that evening-and the next.
Mr Mi, a significant high net worth individual also supported/funded a local school for 600 orphans, located next door to his home. Children are brought to him by the local Government from all over Xinjiang Province, following any of the many earthquakes in the southern region near Kashgar (Kash as the locals call it). The day we visited, twenty kids are playing soccer on “the only grassed soccer pitch in Urumqi”. The kids are happy and well dressed and run over to Mr Mi surrounding him and chattering to him as if he was their father.
Mr Mi also ran (in a large warehouse attached to the orphanage/school) a training workshop for the local unemployed. Mr Mi is quite the man. He is muslim and a Han Chinese. He started with one restaurant 15 years previously and was by the time of our meeting, worth over USD 400 m. Mr Mi is very low key but very business driven – an ironic statement, given the style of the visit, yet there was no other way to describe him. His need? Just, USD 200m finance to expand his abattoir and logistics business.