I am back in the UK. I was in China for seven days exactly. 8:00am Friday morning to 8:00am Friday morning. Although I am back home, my body clock is somewhere over Moscow and my mind is somewhere between Tianjin, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
I met old and dear friends. And I made new and special friends. Everything I thought I knew about China was challenged and was changed. There was so much I learned that I didn’t know. And I knew I was learning so much every day. I enjoyed myself. It was amazing. There is such opportunity. There is such desire. There are such people.
I listened. I spoke. I ate. I drank. I exchanged Business cards. I met big Pharma from the West and big Companies from China. I met Chinese biotech, Chinese VC, Chinese FDA. I met brand new companies and companies with years of success. I met innovation. Passion. Determination. I met scientists trained in R&D in the US – returnees who have come back to China to make a difference. Returnees with drug discovery experience and who are training the next generation of scientists.
I coped with jet lag poorly. I grabbed sleep when I could – trying hard to avoid falling asleep when standing up (dangerous) or when talking to someone (embarrassing). After two or three days (or do I mean hours) I had completely lost track of what day it was in China let alone the day or time in the UK or US.
I embarrassed myself with chopsticks and my inability to even say hello in Chinese…let alone thank you. I ate almost everything I was offered. I drank coffee by the gallon and water by the bucket. I caused great amusement by declining every opportunity to drink tea.
We had several banquet meals. Events that start off very formally with a specific seating plan, but which immediately and always become a wonderfully social activity. Culture is everything. Every one of every age, every race (even English) and every gender talks to everyone. Everybody is smiling. Happy. There is so much laughter. People stand and circulate. Toasts are exchanged. Handshakes. Stories. Business is done. Relationships are built. Shared experiences are created. Moments happen continually. Memories are formed that will last for years.
It feels like I worked every hour for seven days. If I wasn’t in meetings or travelling to meeting I was thinking about what I had seen and heard in my conversations. Travelling up and down China gave me time to invest with my colleagues in China – special time with special people. More people with passion and desire and determination.
The R&D ecosystem in China is very different from anywhere else. It merits special thinking about how we best participate. R&D will be a stunning success in China – of that I have no doubt. The variables are how long will it take (less than we expect), how successful will it be (very), and how global will it be (everywhere). I am completely certain that China will be successful if we do nothing at all. But I am intrigued and excited by how we can best be involved. Tactically we can help. Strategically we can participate. I am so pleased we are helping and we are participating. But I know we can do more. But what and how?
I was given gifts when I left. Mementoes of Shanghai. I have them on my desk. When I look at them I think. So much opportunity. So much potential. So much optimism.
When I look at them I smile. They remind me of my China visit and of my China friends.