Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wuhu, not Woo-woo

I'm reminded of a clip I once saw from a W. C. Fields movie. Fields was the pilot of a plane that had become lost and ended up over China. Fields spots some Europeans sitting outside a club or restaurant below him and begins flying in a circle above them. He shouts down, "Is this Kansas City, Kansas or Kansas City Missouri?" They can't hear him so he finally lands the plane and approaches them. He is dressed in a 3 piece suit with a carnation in the lapel. He asks the first European he meets, "Is this Kansas City, Kansas or Kansas City Missouri?" The guy answers in an effeminant voice, "Woo-woo." Fields edges away from the guy a few inches and repeats the question, "Is this Kansas City, Kansas or Kansas City Missouri?" The guy answers again, "Woo-woo." This time Fields leans back away from him even further, glances down at the carnation, and says, "Don't let the petunia fool ya."

Well, there may not be a Woo-woo in China but there is a Wuhu and its story is a little amazing. Wuhu occupies a populous spot near the heart of central China. Some 250 million people live within a 250-mile radius of the city which includes Shanghai. Wuhu's population is 2.3 million.

Wuhu has undergone such an unprecedented growth explosion in the past two decades that 4/5ths - 80% - of its population live in new housing. It is the home of the 6 year-old automaker Chery. Chery plans an expansion from 350,000 units annually to 1 million to begin exports of its cheap cars to the U. S. and Europe. Wuhu is the center of Chinese manufacturing might and the following stat must give one pause.
China is now the No. 1 producer of digital cameras, color TVs, cell phones, footwear, bicycles, home air conditioners, eyeglasses, wedding gowns and even the freight containers that carry exports abroad.
A few hours down the Yangtze River from Wuhu is Shanghai, China's richest city. Shanghai has at least 2,093 buildings 18 stories and higher, many of them new. Its metropolitan area has more high-rises than the West Coast of the United States.

Wedding gowns? Truly frightening.


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