|>>|| No. 10466
The best analogy I can give is riding pillion on a really fast motorbike, being ridden by an absolute madman. It's a terrifying ordeal that could end badly at any moment, but you've never felt so alive.
As an electronics engineer working in the west, the business is safe, reliable and fucking boring. If I want a prototype manufactured, it takes three weeks and costs hundreds of pounds. If I want a brand new chip to work with, I essentially have to beg the manufacturer and prove that the project I'm working on is worth their while. Lots of paperwork, lots of NDAs and licensee agreements, lots of waiting. It's all risk assessments and quarterly forecasts and certificates of compliance.
In Shenzhen, I can take a taxi down to the SEG market and buy anything I could possibly want, there and then, cash in hand. If it exists, someone has it or can get it. I can walk up to a little booth with a pocketful of Yuan and walk out with a tray full of chips that I couldn't get for love nor money at home, complete with illicitly photocopied data sheets. I can get a prototype PCB made in a matter of hours and a prototype chassis in a couple of days, at a tenth of what it would cost in the west. If I want to go into production, I can just hop in a taxi and visit ten different factories in an afternoon. Things just happen. You know those dreams you have where you're flying? That's what it feels like working out there. The market is flooded with counterfeits and swindlers, the man making my prototypes is probably selling my designs to my competitors, the air smells like burning plastic and the water tastes like petrol, but by god it's exciting.
That thrill is palpable in any Chinese city. Factory wages in Shenzhen are going up by 15-20% a year and have been for years. Kids are getting off the bus from the provinces and walking into a job that pays more in a month than their parents earn in a year. There's a constant, headlong rush towards a better future. Everyone you talk to has a real sense of ambition, in a way that seems to have all but died out in the west. The guy on the corner selling lou mei wants a proper shop, the factory girl on the bus wants to become a doctor, the businessman selling air conditioners wants to conquer the American market, and they're all utterly driven to achieve that goal.
If you went away to university, you'll remember the sense of trepidation and excitement when you moved into your new digs and started exploring your independence in a new city. On the one hand you're terrified that you'll get stabbed by a black man, on the other you're thrilled at the prospect of cheap booze, pretty girls and no parents. China is like that times a thousand, every single day. Absolutely anything is possible - that's the joy and the horror of China in a nutshell.