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Design in Beijing and Shanghai? China-mite!

Six years ago, when the One Club first launched its initiative to teach Chinese students Western design and advertising skills, the creative work produced by the country’s young designers was, well, pretty grim.

"So much of the previous years' entries were derivative and uninspired," says Joe Duffy, chairman of Duffy & Partners, and one of this year's Fast 50 winners for his commitment to design education. "While this has always been the case regardless of where creative competitions are held, it was particularly true in China."

But this year, Duffy says, there’s been a great leap forward. No longer are the students just mimicking what they’ve seen in the West. Their work, he says, would stack up well against anything coming out of New York, London, or Hong Kong.

And, he says, they’re gaining on us: "The rate of speed at which these kids are catching up with — and to some extent surpassing — the West is a little scary."

This year, the One Club, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting excellence in advertising, vetted an initial pool of 1,831 entries from 119 universities and 57 agencies, spanning 30 provinces and cities throughout the country. Only 168 finalists were chosen to participate in the workshops. They’ll be competing to produce work on two client briefs, one for MasterCard, and one for HybridCenter.org.

Duffy has posted some of their entries on his blog, www.duffypov.com. Over the course of the next week, he'll be documenting not just the competition, but also his own design discoveries gleaned from roaming Beijing and Shanghai armed only with a digital camera and a keen eye.

It will be worth following his odyssey, if only to get a sense of what Madison Avenue’s nascent competition is up to. Don't get too comfy, guys. These kids want to eat your lunch.