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Located at the mouth of the Pearl River, Guangzhou (historically known as Canton) was the first port on the maritime Silk Road and a crucial Chinese trading post for nearly 2,000 years. This city of 13 million is now a booming industrial mecca and the largest city in the Pearl River Delta, a hugely dynamic region that produces more goods for export than anywhere else in the country. Welcome to the manufacturing capital of the world.
Photo: Forbes Conrad
Lay of the land: Occupying the top 30 floors of the soaring 103-storey Guangzhou International Finance Centre, the Four Seasons is the latest five-star hotel to grace the city’s constantly evolving skyline. It’s already garnering raves for its jaw-dropping views of the Pearl River Delta, heated floors and dizzying, 30-storey atrium.
Make your pitch: If you want to get anywhere near a Guangzhou businessperson, you’ll need a top-notch intermediary on your side. To get connected, contact the Canadian consulate in Guangzhou or a go-between at a reputable business consulting firm – preferably one with an “in” at the members-only Canton Club, which caters to diplomats and corporate top brass.
Seal the deal: When Stephen Harper spoke at the Canada-China Business Council dinner in Guangzhou earlier this year, nothing short of the ballroom at the Shangri-La would do. A 2,400-square-foot ballroom may be overkill for your client dinner, but the Shangri-La’s Summer Palace, on the second floor, is the city’s top table for formal business entertaining.
What to read: River of Smoke is the second instalment of Amitav Ghosh’s epic Ibis trilogy. The historical novel follows a motley crew of indentured servants to Canton on the eve of the Opium Wars. Ghosh brings the sights, smells and tastes of 19th-century Canton to life.
First person: “Your most valuable asset in Guangzhou is having a translator you can trust. It’s not uncommon for the other party to offer him or her a cut to steer you in the right direction. You have to remember that as a foreigner doing business in China, you’re always playing an away game, so you have to be on guard.”—Rob Turnbull is managing partner of The Brew pubs in Guangzhou. Originally from Perth, Ont., he has been living in Guangzhou since 2004.