Nearly 20 years ago, the land east of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, was mostly occupied by peasant farmers working the soggy ground, and the Jin Mao Tower was simply a gleam in an architect’s eye, if planned at all.
But by 1998, the 88-story, pagoda-influenced skyscraper rose from the ground, one of many crown jewels in a government-sponsored construction blitz that transformed that same land into the modern Pudong area.
Just across a small street from the Jin Mao stands the newest monument to financial prosperity: 101-story World Financial Center, the third-tallest building in the world, which will be completed before Shanghai hosts the 2010 World Expo, the next big item on China’s quest to grow its influence in the global economy.
The Jin Mao is now home to a variety of companies that have launched in Shanghai or flocked to the city to do business. From the 54th floor up, rooms of the opulent Grand Hyatt Shanghai give visitors a firsthand view of China’s rise.
Almost every skyscraper in the Pudong area was nonexistent two decades ago, but the windows of Grand Hyatt’s elevated lobby display a skyline to rival any in America, and that’s just on the east side of the river.
During their brief time here, most of the Georgia delegation stayed at the luxurious hotel, a fitting representation of the Chinese economic boom with which the state and Delta Air Lines Inc. were so eager to connect.
A welcome reception and banquet held in a second-floor ballroom gave a preview of the new business and cultural links the flight will foster.
Georgia and Chinese businesspeople chatted and exchanged cards at a cocktail networking reception before the dinner celebration. The Delta-sponsored party that followed was a festive production, complete with swirling spotlights and swanky music. A lighted Delta logo projected on the walls continually circled the room.
Young Shaolin monks from the nearby temple came on stage to show off their fierce brand of martial arts, and silk-clad female performers obliged dinner attendees with an elegant dance.
Then, while attendees used their chopsticks to nibble on a 10-course meal, a blues band from a local club backed a singer who belted out American classics including “Georgia on My Mind.”
Kenneth Jarrett, U.S. consul general in Shanghai, seemed to think that the song choice was appropriate in view of the new flight’s potential.
“Soon, many people in eastern China will have Georgia and many other cities in the Southeast on their minds,” Mr. Jarrett told the audience of about 200.
Serving as his own translator, Mr. Jarrett said Delta’s endeavor in China, which began on the same day as the airline’s highly anticipated service to London’s Heathrow Airport, fills a critical void in air travel, linking the 65 million residents of the Southeast with China’s financial and commercial hub.
The highest-ranking delegates traveling on the Georgia trip sat in the front and center of some 40 tables. Although Gov. Sonny Perdue and other state officials and business leaders were on hand, Lee Macenczak, Delta’s executive vice president for sales and marketing, was the only one to make official remarks.
He told the crowd that Delta makes about 1,000 daily departures from the airline’s Atlanta hub and that the company is undergoing its largest international expansion ever. The airline serves 80 destinations in all.
The flight will save travelers between Atlanta and China between three and five hours of travel time over one-stop routes, he said.
Although he didn’t formally speak, Mr. Perdue participated in a bilingual countdown symbolically launching the Shanghai to Atlanta leg of the flight.
Mr. Macenczak said that the flight, which departed for Georgia a few hours after it arrived in Shanghai, carried a full load of cargo, but not passengers.
Delta has been working to build its brand in China for as long as it has been pursuing a connection with the Asian nation, selling tickets here for flights from America, but Mr. Macenczak said it would take awhile for the flight to fill up from the Shanghai side. If the flight is as popular as the dinner celebrating its launch, the prospects look good.