David's Blog on SOM3 Beijing- Post 1

August 11, 2014

Highlights on Beijing

For a battle-hardened former journalist like me, it is hard to walk through the fortified portals of the Beijing Hotel, on Changan and on the north east corner of Tiananmen without some slightly querulous feelings. This classic of colonial Soviet architectural style is as close as any hotel – or set of hotels – can get to a mausoleum. It is barely changed from those far distant days of 1982 when I was here in Beijing to train journalists in the freshly-minted China Daily. Despite superficial facelifts and makeovers, it is as intimidating and un-navigable as ever, the grande dame of hotels from Mao’s hayday. The fusty carpet smells are unchanged. The air outside is as hazed as ever. You can tell I love Beijing!
Mercifully, all of the many other APEC meetings to be held in Beijing this year have been set elsewhere. But for SOM3, this must be home for a couple of weeks. At least Wangfujing, the garish shopping mecca at the hotel’s eastern door, allows easy access to hundreds of restaurants and other distractions, and to wandering thousands of confident, modern, stylish Chinese tourists. An astonishing 4.3 billion Chinese took domestic holidays last year – and a significant percentage of those holidaymakers were headed to Beijing. Wangfujing is crowded and there can be no greater contrast than the unreconstituted Mao-era Beijing Hotel alongside teeming, modern Wangfujing – testament to China’s full-blooded engagement with all the outside world can offer.
After flying in on Saturday with meetings fully underway, I have so far only managed to find my ABAC Japan colleague Mika Takahashi along the Beijing Hotels cavernous hallways. We worked together through Sunday on a very short Business Mobility Group workshop on the APEC Travel Card. The main takeaways: there has been in-principle commitment to extend the Travel Card to five years; and officials are still working on the “other stuff” – like managing changes in passport numbers, and speeding Travel Card processing times.
Somewhere among the Beijing Hotel’s many caverns, customs officials are beavering away. I must catch up on progress there in due course. And we have work being done on Emergency Response, Chemicals Dialogues, and the like. But work in earnest is only just beginning. The big battles over a roadmap to the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific are still a week away. The big Food Security meetings, which Tony Nowell from ABAC New Zealand will be flying in for, begin on Wednesday.
For me, Monday is to be spent at the first Public Private Partnership Dialogue on Environmental Goods and Services – another APEC experiment on how most effectively to engage the private sector in policy making. More about that tomorrow.

Wangfujing Street on the Beijing Hotel doorstep

Mobility Group Meeting – 10 Aug (First day of 4 days meetings)

Forbidden City from Beijing Hotel

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