On inspiration

The reason to visit China this time in 2016 had a lot to do with my new professional passion, i.e. the history and development of cities. After having met the author of a book project I have always admired as well as pondering life amid landscapes zooming by the train window, herewith some notes on inspiration.

Hongqiao Integrated Transport Hub, Shanghai

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2016 China trip

A shame I don’t speak the language and have more time and inspiration to explore the country(side). And still, the occasional trip to China has always been worth it. This time was no different.

Niushikou, Chengdu 

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China learning from Japan

I went to a presentation by Stephen Roach (former chief economist of Morgan Stanley) a couple of weeks ago. He started off with a good overview of current global financial imbalances. Yet I felt he fell short on delivering on the presentation title’s promise – showing how China can learn from Japan – in good ways and in bad. Some of the topics I would have liked to be seen addressed after the jump.


Shanghai haze viewed from Pudong

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State Intervention

The proximity to Columbia University and my flexibility as a freelancer allow for plenty of visits to public lectures. So today I went to this mini-conference on state intervention and private enterprise in the US, Japan and China. What promised to be an intriguing event left a lot to be desired. The following lines are some casual and possibly incongruous observations.


For the lack of a better photo: Chandler and Northwest Corner Building at Columbia University

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High-Speed China

It’s nearly a year ago that I first used China’s new high-speed rail (HSR) when travelling from Beijing to Hangzhou. It was a fascinating experience. A New York Times article again drew my attention to the perhaps most ambitious infrastructure project a single nation has ever undertaken. It also made me dig out the one and only photo of a train I took. And no, I have no idea who this person is.

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Pyin Oo Lwin – Hsipaw

One of our trips inside Burma took us to Shan State in the country’s north. Starting off in Pyin Oo Lwin – or Maymyo as the British called the city – we made our way towards the princely town of Hsipaw. We took the train to get a change of scenery.

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Chinese embassy protests

The flat which a friend of mine has kindly offered to me for the last two weeks of my Tokyo stay is a short walk from the Chinese embassy. With tensions between Japan and China running high, it is no surprise that protests take place here from time to time. Just as I was walking by this Sunday, two uyoku dantai (literally “right wing groups”) vans were trying to make their way through police blockades.


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Japan back then and China now

To my surprise I have found myself following a rather economics-heavy debate on overinvestment in China recently. I’m interested because of my forthcoming e-book project. One of the chapters will be on Japan’s economic miracle. Apart from pondering investment to GDP ratios I was wondering: can we compare today’s China with post-war Japan?


House in Hangzhou, China

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