Friday, October 19, 2012

And a little outside Shanghai

We spent one day in China at my husband's plant in Jiangsu province.  It is about 45 minutes from Shanghai, but you never really leave the city.  Seeing this area helped put in perspective how truly huge Shanghai is.

The roads in most of Western China were excellent, huge multi-lane highways just like you would find in any major American city.  There are lots of people and goods (including food!) to move around Shanghai and these roads are designed to get the job done.  Here are a couple of views along the highway. Check out the power lines!  These are absolutely everywhere.

I snapped the next picture from the car, too.  This is a thoroughly typical high-rise apartment.  Very few apartments have dryers, so everyone except the ultra-rich hangs there clothes outside or in that glassed-in sunroom you see there.  Laundry everywhere:  another enduring image of my Shanghai.  With four kids, I can relate!

Getting to see Bill's plant was an amazing experience.  It was the first time I had seen the "other half" of what my husband has poured himself into for the last twenty years.  I remember when they bought this land and built the plant, little by little.  But I only heard about it second-hand, and with very few photographs!  The plant is thoroughly modern and just so much more than I had expected.  They employ skilled machinists and engineers in addition to less-skilled laborers.  All of the goods they produce here become components in other finished products that are made around the world, including in the U.S.
 Maybe you are thinking how awful it is that my husband makes his living selling parts made in China.  You are entitled to that opinion.  I do have a couple of thoughts on that score, though.  First, trade around the world is one of the great ways to encourage peace between countries.  Second, buying an item that is less expensive because of where it is made allows people to have more money to spend on other things.  Third, it wasn't a sweat shop, if that concerns you.  I've been in a fair number of plants because of my past career of engineer.  Bill's plant didn't feel appreciably different from anywhere else I've been.  (Now, the COUNTRY on the other hand...I'll have something to say about that later.)  It simply isn't possible in western China, especially in Shanghai, to operate anything less than a regular factory with good conditions for the employees.  I'm not making excuses for the policies of the government, especially the one-child policy.  But there are many sides to the economic issue.

The offices at the plant reminded me very much of the steel facility I worked at in France, except Bill's place was a little nicer.  Here's a picture of the outside.  Just to the left of this picture is the company cafeteria.  The employees get lunch every day (five days a week now).

Here's a picture taken out of Bill's office window.  You will see what is probably a familiar sign: 

They do offer squid and bean-sprout pizza.  I passed.

One final observation while we were outside of Shanghai proper.  Everywhere there was not a building, there was a rice paddy.  EVERYWHERE.  There really weren't any open spaces.  And even out here in the 'burbs, there were huge apartment complexes going up, 30- and 40-story towers, six or eight at a time.  Massive.  I always wondered where all the people were coming from.  No one could tell me.

No comments: