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Be like water snake - elusive, slippery, never mind the lines. - Sage advice on how to negotiate Chinese traffic
Whilst attending HighEnd Munich 2008, I met Allen and Alex Wang of Melody Valve Hifi and was subsequently invited to a sponsored visit of their factory and the Guangzhou AV Fair held annually at the White Swan 5-star hotel. To mitigate the language barrier, Alex offered chauffeur, tour guide and translation services and additionally hired Laura, an English teacher intern, to be at our disposal while he was busy. Alex also turned out to be a master of the stone-cold bargain which came in supremely handy when visiting certain jewelry stores downtown Shenzhen. In short, visitors to China would do well to secure themselves similar support. As my wife and I can attest, it made all the difference in the world. It transformed what could have been a daunting prospect into an absolutely pleasurable and joyous experience.

My fabulous local support team: Ivette, Alex and Laura

Where to begin though? In China, scale is king. And its king is immensity itself. It'd require at least an Imax screen to do our however short visit any justice. Yet here we're dealing with a mere show report format. For tangential impressions to serve the bigger picture then, you'll find a number of embedded Side Bars in this show reportage. Those veer into visits to Shenzhen's Cultural Village, a fancy restaurant, samples of Chinese art, hifi stores and such. Altogether, this expanded approach should give you some inkling of the Sino phenomenon. And before even this humble statement rings hollow, yes, we're already planning on a rather more extensive RoadTour China 2009 to delve deeper into this very topic.

Needless to say, none of it could hope to bridge the cultural gap between East and West. But every little bit counts. By way of illuminating how these cultural differences assert themselves, let's kick off with what a casual follow-up netted on a statement by a front-rank Chinese loudspeaker firm that they had discontinued with a foreign OEM partner for owing them 800,000 (which turns into roughly eight million their currency):

"We do owe something close to that number but there are several offsets which your contact has forgotten to mention. No matter, a debt is a debt and we had been making good payments weekly for over a year. The last note we had (over 500K dollars) we paid off timely with interest... I also want to quietly share why we began to distance ourselves some months back. I found out quite by accident that they had substituted a copy of a certain premium but very visible part complete with serial numbers and styling to look identical. Of course that part was crap and started breaking left and right. Never mind the small issue of actually breaking the law here in America by selling a fake (copy) of a patented product. They also took our OEM product and started selling it in other countries without permission or payment of royalties..."

This snippet demonstrates both business scale (of outstanding invoices at importer cost) and ongoing misunderstandings of what constitutes acceptable behavior. On both sides of the fence. Anyone thinking of cheap Sino labor as a long-term gold mine waiting to be raided best be prepared for serious lessons.

While on lessons, the West has arguably led a certain sexist movement in adverts but at least in the audio industry, I'd not before come across something quite this questionable. Shall we now begin the show report?

To honor our event sponsor Melody Valve Hifi without taking up undue space in the alphabetical coverage, their room and brief impressions of Shuguang's annual party are covered in this Side Bar.