Beijing in 2005


I made 3 trips to China in 1984 and 1985 on business. Based on discussions with recent visitors, I was prepared for enormous changes. It's true. China has been transformed. Beijing is barely recognizable from 20 years ago.

In 1985, over 90% of the people in Beijing wore drab shapeless unisex clothing. Now they are indistinguishable from people in other Asian cities. There were virtually no store signs; now there is sophisticated advertising everywhere. In 1985, the Chinese government allowed the first private person to buy a car, now there are millions of cars. The air quality is very bad. Surely the speed of this transformation is the greatest in human history.

Since the primary purpose of this 3-day visit to China was as a staging point to visit North Korea we did not do a lot of sightseeing.

I had dinner with employees of Lucent Technologies and learned about current conditions. In 1984 and 1985, my mission was to break AT&T (now Lucent) into China with the first sale of a 5ESS switch in Wuhan and do the technical planning for it to work in the Chinese telephone network. In 2005, I learned that there are now more than 500 5ESS switches in China serving tens of millions of customers. Further the work that I did in Japan in the mid 1990s to develop and sell the first Personal Handy Phone feature has extended the sales life of 5ESS in China.

Addendum for background info: In the Bell Labs News Volume 27, Number 3 February 3, 1987 (cover), there was an article about the 5ESS Switch cutover in Wuhan focused on the development teams achievement that credits me and my employee at the time John Digrindakis. This Wuhan 5ESS switch as the first 5ESS in China was famous inside AT&T. In early June 1987, VIPs AT&T CEO James Olson, Bell Labs President Ian Ross, and AT&T International President John Hinds spent a day in Wuhan to see the 5ESS switch. See page 35 and 36.

By an interesting coincidence, I stayed at the Sheraton Great Wall Hotel this trip. In 1985 I stayed there when it was a brand new hotel. Now there is a Hard Rock Cafe around the corner. All the major buildings are modern and there are traffic jams. Further, it is clear that Beijing is getting ready for the 2008 Olympics.

Thumbnails of Typical Western Influence

Sheraton Hotel Sheraton Great Wall Hard Rock Sign Hard Rock Entrance Buildings Traffic
Sheraton Great Wall Hotel Sheraton Great Wall Hotel Hard Rock Cafe Hard Rock Cafe Typical Traffic & Buildings Typical Traffic & Buildings

Photos of Some Interesting Things

In 1984 and 1985, I saw slogans promoting population control like "One Family, Three Mouths". Now the approach is more sophisticated. Also they are trying to increase the perceived value of a female child. Most of the signs are ads these days with a scattering of slogans.

Construction is everywhere. A nice dress-up touch in the city is to surround concrete pillars with flowers.

Of course, you will see McDonald's restaurants. The most shocking change I saw was on TV. There was a lot of skin showing -- nothing that would raise an eyebrow in the US, but a radical departure from the puritanical norms 20 years ago. There were separate female and male modeling contests on TV. It was amazing in China to see young men in tuxes in one scene and then in swim suits in the next. There has been a revolution in social attitudes.

Thumbnails of Interesting Things

Sign Row Population Control Sign Cranes Flowered Pillar McDonalds TV Contest
Slogans & Ads Population Control Cranes Flowered Pillar McDonalds TV Contest

Typical Street Scenes

Still some things haven't changed much in China. The security men have new uniforms. I did not remember them marching in platoons so I took several shots. Side streets are clean. Yes, there still are old types of transport. There were a few beggars to be seen in the city, but they do not approach people. There are still examples of muscle power used instead of machines. Just reminders of the enormous progress.

Thumbnails of Typical Street Scenes

Security Men Security Men Security Men Side Street Buildings Poverty
Security Men Security Men Security Men Side Street Transport Poverty

New Game

At the park adjacent to the Temple of Heaven Complex, we saw people playing a new game. Surely this could become a fad in America. There is a paddle with a soft rubber center and a ball smaller than, but similar to a baseball. You use the paddle to both catch and pitch the ball to the other player. Skilled players will use a paddle in each hand and lengthen the distance to the other player. It was a lot of fun to watch.

Thumbnails from the Park Next to the Temple of Heaven Complex

Security Guards Game Game Game Game Entrance
Security Guards Game Game Game Game Temple Entrance

Temple to Heaven Complex

Unfortunately, the memorable main Temple to Heaven is closed, undergoing a renovation so it will be in splendid condition for Olympic tourists. That didn't faze us. We were in great spirits. We had a good guide. We had a wonderful group. There were things to see. And we looking forward to our adventure in North Korea.

Thumbnails from the Temple to Heaven Complex

Gate View Roof View Street View TCC Trio No Evil TCC Group
Gate View Roof View Street View TCC Trio Hear No Evil... Wonderful TCC Group