Postcard from Beijing

What do Starbucks and smog have in common? Opportunity. As I walk around Beijing, the signs of the 2008 Olympics fading into memory, I am struck by the fact that every corner has a Starbucks, not to mention other ubiquitous American iconography - - Sizzler, Nike, 7-11, Hummers, and CNN to name a few. I’m also struck by the fact that the smog problem remains untamed, despite efforts pre and post Olympics to reduce pollution from traffic and smokestacks. So why do these two forces - - American companies and smog - - have anything to do with opportunity?

The Chinese apparently love our American products and lifestyle (yes, the line out the door for soy lattes is mostly Chinese, not American tourists). That has created opportunities for business here. The smog is a problem that we have technology to address - - so why isn’t that also an opportunity?

Some smart entrepreneur could rent a storefront here in Beijing and feature every cleantech gadget that America has to offer. We have tech companies that make diesel particulate traps, energy-efficient lighting, wind micro-turbines, building-integrated solar panels, software to manage energy use and a lot more. I’ll bet that even our green consumer products that are showcased in places like Whole Foods markets (note to self - - find out if Whole Foods has any stores over here!), from sustainable/organic cosmetics and clothing to household energy-saving devices and luggage made from recycled materials, would be at least as popular here as the latest iPod.

Wouldn’t it be great to hook 1.5 billion people on American cleantech and greentech before the goods and services of some other country does it? Maybe on my next trip to Beijing I’ll see a line out the door of a store that’s flying a flag of red, white, blue, and green.

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