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Tag Archives: Forbidden City

St Basil's Church

St Basil’s Church

This week I am in Moscow and overall, I find Moscow to be a bit bleak – miles of low-slung beige and gray block-style buildings reminiscent of the Cold War Soviet government. The exceptions include a small group of new downtown skyscrapers and Red Square.

With my China sourcing consulting business, I have been to Beijing and Tiananmen Square many times but this is the first time I’ve been to Moscow and its famous Red Square.  Both cities are heavily industrialized, the seat of their respective governments, and both have famous Squares.  So how does Red Square compare to Tiananmen Square?

First, they are both enormous.  The Chinese claim that Tiananmen can hold a million people and being there, it seems possible.  While not as big, Red Square is quite impressive, with the attached Kremlin grounds and several churches and museums.  Both have picturesque historical buildings including the Chinese Forbidden City and the Russian St. Basil’s Cathedral with the colorful onion domes. On the sides of both Squares are the seats of government: The Chinese Communist Party and the Kremlin.  Both Squares have remarkable museums with extensive and awesome collections. Both Squares have monuments to workers.  Tiananmen has Mao’s Mausoleum and Red Square has Lenin’s Mausoleum.

But the more important thing is that these two Squares were built as places of powerful governments and a show of might and strength. Both Squares are often used for military parades and other official government business. The message seems to be tops-down with leadership and power at the pinnacle and the people at the bottom.   You can “feel” this in both places to the point where it is a bit intimidating.

Contrast that with American monuments such as the Washington Mall.  The Mall seems to have a totally different feel, more egalitarian, more “Of the People.”  Even the White House is surrounded by an open fence, unlike the high walls of the Forbidden City and the Kremlin.

It serves us well to remember and respect these distinctions when we are dealing with global commerce.  Most nations of the world maintain tight control over capitalist ventures and international commerce.   We need to be aware and sensitive to cultural and governmental differences in our Supply Chain planning and execution.

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Xinhua News

Xinhua News

About 200,000 soldiers and civilians assembled in Tiananmen Square on October 1 for a parade and performance in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.  Just as we saw in the fantastic Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics, the performances were spectacular with incredible precision and discipline.  The Chinese really know how to put on a show!

The presentation was all about China’s history since 1949, when Mao Zedong led the revolution that established the People’s Republic of China.  Mao was honored for lifting China from a rural, impoverished economy to an industrial giant.  Of course, the celebration also skipped over a few details like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution where 20-50 million people (depends on the source) starved to death because of Mao’s agricultural strategies.

This event was less about the rest of the world and more about a show of Communist Party strength within China.  It is very important for the Party to show power, control and prosperity.  This is the way the government is able to control and stabilize the population and avoids any confrontation with protesters. The message is that all citizens should be grateful and honored that the Communist Party has brought them so much prosperity, so quickly.

There were a few displays that the world could interpret as China’s show of economic might.  For example, President Hu Jintao rode in a China-made limo.  Of course, the profitable auto industry in China is expanding very fast to satisfy the high demand within China.

And China now has the largest military in the world and a military budget that grows 14% per year. The show of force with enormous battalions of men and women, (including the all-women fighter pilots who flew overhead) was quite effective and a little scary.

The October 1 Anniversary show leaves me in awe of the long journey China has traveled since 1949 and a little apprehensive about China’s mighty future.

dsc_0105a1I am awe-struck. This is perhaps the most interesting place I have ever visited. The Forbidden City in the center of Beijing, China was the imperial home to Emperors, Empresses, concubines, eunuchs and thousands of servants for nearly 500 years, up through the 1920’s. It is called the Forbidden City because only the royal court was allowed inside the walls. The compound is enormous…it takes more than an hour to walk from one side to the other. There are dozens of beautiful buildings with fabulous roof lines and imperial dragons (the sign of the emperor) and phoenix’s (the sign of the empress). There are marble stairways and huge pavilions where the emperors called the royal court and army generals for assembly. The sculptures are fabulous and symbolic of the power and majesty of the people who tried to rule China harmoniously for centuries. Walking through the city, I was struck by the quiet peacefulness of the palaces and the awesome historical significance of Imperial China. It was breathtaking.