After leaving Beijing, one cannot help, unless deaf and blind, but be totally amazed by the incredible growth in China. Only a few years ago the streets of the nation’s capital were crowded with cyclists, now there are convoys of Audi A6’s and BMW’s moving bumper-bumper. In a city where a maze of small streets bordered by tiny and dusty brick houses used to exist, we now see large, flamboyant shopping malls made of glistening marble. All the world’s luxury brands, especially the watch brands, are prospering here.
China’s huge development is the improbable result of a seemingly contradictory alliance: one that combines raw and unbridled capitalism with a strict-obedience to the orthodoxies of Marx, Mao, and Deng Xiaoping, a combination managed today by a new ‘reformist’ leader, Hu Jintao. Deng Xiaoping had earlier proclaimed that it was “glorious to become wealthy,” as he launched his great economic reforms that would include this strange two-speed hybrid of a “market-oriented socialist society.”
We do have to admit, however, that this approach has achieved spectacular results. But we also must note that China’s economic boom (+9.1% in 2003), which saw oil imports rise 40% in just the last six months, has produced countless numbers of casualties. “We are like fish on a chopping block,” says a poem stuck on the door of a small house condemned to death in the name of ‘Fortune Plaza’, a grouping of five enormous skyscrapers slated for construction in central Beijing. Do the ‘CEOs’ that dash quickly from one airplane to another take the time to stop and read the characters of this small poem written by a trembling handı Most probably not.
Yet, at the end of September, we met many foreigners in the lobbies of the grand hotels in the city’s capital. Omega was there to inaugurate its large clock in Tienanmen Square, a clock bearing its name that counts down the days to the Olympic Games in 2008. There were also the VIPs of the Richemont Group who came for its ‘cultural and historical’ exhibition entitled ‘Watches & Wonders’ (see article in this issue) that took place in the ancient Tai Miao Temple in the Forbidden City.
A few steps from there, one could not help but see the great contradictions of modern day China. The boutiques of nearly all the luxury and prestige watch brands line the streets, while nearby fake watches are sold on small cardboard stalls. The counterfeit pieces have even come to the Chinese capital before the authentic brands. As an example, Lange & Söhne is not yet present in China, but you can already purchase some of the brand’s models, the difference being notably the price, since the movement is Chinese. Actually, so is the case. Is the world inevitably condemned to revolve on its axis at two speedsı