I have just arrived in Paris after a brief stopover in Guangzhou. And the differences are stark.
Paris is an extraordinarily beautiful city and is the cultural centerpiece of Europe, albeit that the cultural persona of France is changing fast. China has its own unique cultural beauty but culture aside, one thing is clear – France is a sunset economy and China is a sunrise.
I first visited Guangzhou about 30-years ago in my BHP days and it was a much smaller city back then. Although it must be said we were afforded only a limited view of the city as the communist ideology was in full control and everyone was wearing blue Chairman Mao suits.
China did not suddenly emerge from the paddy fields and is certainly not the sprawling mess some predicted. The well-orchestrated planning of its cities began many years ago and we still have much to see as China’s emergence continues.
France is one of the stronger members of the EU and Paris is still breathtaking. But she reminds me in some ways of the Titanic. She set sail in splendor and the wealthy partied but their wealth and who they were counted for nothing as the mighty ship's vulnerability was revealed.
Perhaps this is a little dramatic, but despite the troubled economy, the streets of Paris are still full of people spending like there is no tomorrow.
How does this economy (and others in the EU) avoid sliding into the abyss? Europe cannot survive on tourism alone, so how does it become relevant again? Has the West become complacent or the East more aggressive? Or both?
The East needs the West to sustain their almost double-digit growth rates and unless the West can pull itself out of its malaise, the East may have to settle for lesser growth rates driven by domestic consumption.
This is stil l crystal ball stuff.
Enjoy the ride