China: Readjust your Scales

It’s the year of the dragon in China, which would be reason enough to make a visit to the most populous country in the world (1.3 billion per their own 2010 Census).  Needless to say, there are plenty of other reasons for MBA students from Columbia Business School to make the trip halfway around the world.  26 MBA students and 3 faculty members are currently in Shanghai (and will be visiting Hong Kong and Macau) over the next few days, and the focus of our trip will be the real estate industry in China.  We will have the fortunate opportunity to meet with a number of CBS alumni and other professionals during the trip, and the firms represented will cover all facets of the real estate industry (development, financing, advisory, etc.).  For us real estate geeks, this is a rare chance to see how this country has developed from a property perspective, as well as hear from seasoned professionals about the country’s history of growth and the various opinions of the future impacts ahead.

First Stop: Shanghai

One of the four directly controlled municipalities in China (along with Beijing, Tianjin, and Chongqing), Shanghai is considered a “Tier 1” city in China, and has an estimated metropolitan population of 23 million people.  On our first day, we met with representative from Jones Lang LaSalle and Tishman Speyer.  After these meetings, we got a true grasp of just how immense China is (in addition to what we’ve physically seen of the city thus far).  To put it in perspective, the US has 9 cities with more than 1 million; China on the other hand has 12 cities of more than 7 million people, and more than 150 cities with 1 million plus.  It’s staggering to hear how many more zeros round off the figures that are used to describe China.  It’s also interesting to hear about the continued urbanization of China’s population (just recently, the total urban population in the country reached 50%).  Every 5 years, a population the equivalent size of Germany (80 million) is moving into Chinese cities!  Needless to say, there’s no shortage of people to supply the real estate industry with owners and tenants; the major questions deal with how developers build space for all of them and still make money, and what jobs the market will supply that will continue to allow people to move up into the middle class.  There’s a lot of amazing statistics, which I will be sure to continue to reference throughout the trip…but the major point of the story is that China is big and it’s time as a major global force is really just beginning.

As an FYI, blogging in China is hard…really hard.  There’s no access available to Facebook, Twitter, or our own Chazen blogging site.  I’ll be sending my thoughts over to Chazen back home for them to post, but unfortunately it won’t be as elaborate as I planned. I’ll try to make up for it when I return to US soil with some fancier pictures and final thoughts.  In the meantime, stay tuned for the next updates, including our stops in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and enjoy all of the Chazen blogs as well.

Matt Giammanco ‘13

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