Harbin Business Exchange Newsletter
ON THE ROAD IN HARBIN -- SPECIAL RERUN First release May 6, 2005 2nd Ed 5/16/05







Surprising Harbin
American preconception of Harbin is often that of a backward city in the wilderness of northern China. This erroneous perception seems to come from two major sources. First, simple ignorance. American business people tend to know more about southern China, and are quick to accept the image as fact. People never north of Beijing simply repeat what they hear as gossip and flawed reporting. The second factor is the bad-mouthing of those with vested interests in other regions and other cities. China is notorious for its regional competitiveness. Since most of the Chinese representation in America comes from southern China, and most American businesses have developed their own interests in southern China, there are self-serving efforts to demean other regions. The American image of northern China finds itself reflected in media reports as well. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal did a piece on Harbin that reflected the common myths - not the realities.

The surprise about "Surprising Harbin" comes from those who actually visit the city, and explore its growth, opportunities and dynamics. Foremost, people find a modern exciting city, sharing, and in some instances leading, China's phenomenal economic transformation. The opportunities in Harbin may be greater than many of the better known, more expensive, cities. This online feature is named "Surprising Harbin" because that is how almost everyone reacts when they visit for the first time. Next time you negative hear talk about Harbin, ask if the person has ever been there. It would be rare for that person to say, "Yes." Be confident that Harbin continues as a land of exceptional investment and business opportunities. Below are merely 5 of countless others. 1. Developers of a brand new 5-star hotel are seeking a joint venture partner. 2. Backers needed for a Chicago theme restaurant. 3. Partner in a fertilizer production facility. 4. Real Estate developments - residential, commercial, industrial. Contact HBE for more specifics.


This entire issue of our online newsletter is coming from Harbin and devoted to our activities here. It is a fabulous trip both personally and professionally. Before we get into the professional side, let me extend our thanks for a wonderful time provided to me, Jill and our associate, Xiong Her. As it happened, we were in Harbin for Jill and my 13th wedding anniversary. This proved not to be an unlucky number. We were hosted to several anniversary celebrations, dinners and luncheons -- flooding our hotel room with more than 150 roses plus many other flowers, each symbolizing different things. In view of the increased amount of times we will be spending in Harbin, Jill and I visited a number of residential locations recommended by friends. They ranged from a luxury apartment in Harbin's most fashionable high-rise to an ornate historic 1938 Russian cottage on the shore of the Songhua River. We are staying at the 5-star boutique Songhuajiang Hotel on Flood Monument Plaza, directly across from the Wanda Shopping Mall. We feel the daily energy of Harbin in the tens of thousands of people who jam the Plaza and Center Street shopping area to enjoy a host of recreational activities. The sky is festooned with hundreds of fabulous kites. Every visit outside our hotel is like entering a grand carnival, with street vendors, sidewalk artists and recreational games. You can read more about this trip, and see the photos, on the HBE website; www.harbex.org upon our return next week. Looking forward to seeing you soon - Larry Horist, President, HBE

  • HBE leaders, Larry and Jill Horist, and their associate, Xiong Her, were invited to Harbin to participate in the official opening ceremonies of the new Wanda Shopping Mall in Harbin. The four building mall is the largest in Harbin, and among the largest in China. It is anchored by Wal-Mart, Parkson (China's leading department store) and Warner Bros. (an 8-screen cineplex). As the official representative, Larry was seated in the front row, near Harbin Mayor Shi, for the official ribbon-cutting. He and Jill then joined the mayor as part of a small group touring the facilities. While this was the official opening of the mall, Wal- Mart and Warner Bros. actually began operations in January. Sales at the Wal-Mart now exceed the combined sales of the two other stores in Harbin, and is among the most successful in China. In only a few months, the Harbin Warner Bros. movie house is the 3rd highest grossing in all of China. It grosses more than all theaters in Harbin combined. These impressive statistics are due to the fact that the Wanda Shopping Plaza is located in the most popular location in the city. Known as the "golden" or "diamond" district, it is the epicenter of civic, business and tourist activities. Each year, millions of people converge on the site.

  • True to the Chinese tradition, the HBE delegation was honored with a continuing run of formal dinners and luncheons. (The business attire we brought will be replaced with stretch waist pants once at home!) Among them was a remarkable dinner hosted by former Mayor Wang ZhongZhang and Madame Xie YingMei, head of the Harbin consultancy. It was a very special meeting of old friends. Mayor Wang and Larry Horist first conceived of the idea of the Harbin Business Exchange after the Mayor's visit to Chicago hosted by the Horists. Another feast, complete with karaoke by top officials, was composed of the dignitaries that visited Chicago in 2001. Leading businesswoman, Mrs. SunyLan hosted that banquet. A combined official luncheon and anniversary celebration was arranged by Mr. Hu YongChang, Director of the Harbin Economic Cooperative Promotion Bureau. The Harbin Development Zone officials Mr. Jie Ping and Ms. Ren Wenxia had a holiday dinner (May Day) so easy to enjoy. Most definitely not least, prominent real state entrepreneur, Mrs. Wang GuiLan, owner of the Songhuajiang Plaza Hotel hosted several meals, provided guest suites to the HBE visitors with several exquisite floral bouquets, a daily gift of fresh fruit, an anniversary cake for the Horists and of course only the finest cuisine from the hotel head chef - a celebrity in his own right.

  • The Harbin Development Zone dinner allowed for the opportunity to introduce the HBE visitors to Mr. and Mrs. Michael Whelton, of McCain Corporation. The company recently announced plans to open a major plant in China. McCain is the world's largest producer of processed potato products, and services many of the major fast food companies. The presence of McCain is an indication of the optimistic outlook for the future growth of the Harbin economy - especially in the fast food area.

  • The joint venture between TJI International and Brown's Chicken & Pasta has made great progress this trip. Larry signed the Cooperative Intention Agreement with the Wanda Group while in Harbin, and provided the initial payment of $21,000 USD for the establishment of a two-story, 500-seat food and entertainment center to be constructed next to the Warner Bros. Cineplex on Flood Monument Plaza. The Hollywood theme restaurant will have panoramic views of the scenic Songhua River park and recreation area. During the visit, Larry, Jill and Xiong met with several architectural firms to work with their American architect, Michael Meissner. They also interviewed an outstanding candidate for general on-site management of the restaurant. He currently manages one of the largest food courts in the city. High government officials also introduced the Horists to a very well established consultant on government and legal affairs. He is a former judge and law professor. The HBE leaders also visited a number of vendors and supply chain operators.

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