Posted by: David Stewart | October 13, 2008

The Other Two Dragons

There has been a lot of worry in the US about the economy, as reflected by gyrations in the markets. I feel weird making a trip to the East while all of this is percolating. My trip to Asia last month was when the AIG bailout and Lehman collapse hit. I remembered asking my wife Deb, “will there be any country left when I come back?” How funny to consider all that has happened since then!

If the global economy is to recover, we need to invest in places where we will get an ultimate return. Asia is full of developers who can take my technical content and turn it into new value.

Usually when we think of Asia, we in the US often think of it as being “developing economies” or the “third world”. But there are many parts of Asia where the standard of living is as high or higher than in the West.

Remember, for much of the last 25 years, the Four Dragons of Asian economic growth were Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul. Since my days in college, these were the countries which generated immense wealth growth through their innovation, hard work and persistence.

Only in the past decade has Mainland China taken such a strong role. Their own four dragons (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen) are followed by a veritable fleet of cities with at least 1 million population. But the standard of living for most Chinese, though improving rapidly in the big cities, is still considered “developing”. Although I have never visited Shenzhen and Guangzhou only once, I have also visited metropolises such as Chengdu, Dalian, Shenyang, Hangzhou and Nanjing. Oh, and Sanya.

So it seems fitting to return to a couple of the other Dragons of the East this time: Seoul and Taipei. I’m interested to see their opinion about the current world situation and American nuttiness.

I visited Seoul once before around 1990, 18 years ago. Back then, it seemed to be a most American city – green parks with broad lawns, traditional-looking churches, and lots of smog. Honestly I had more problems adjusting to the food than I expected. Maybe it was because I was still new to foreign travel and “real” ethnic food.

I can remember that in my last trip to Korea, I came home after 10 days and was amazed at how much my little Annie had grown in such a short time! Two year olds grow really quickly.

I have never visited Taiwan before, but I have heard that is has some interesting contrasts to the People’s Republic of China. I am staying next to Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world – now or at one time.

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