With its luxurious hotels, vertiginous towers and gastronomic marvels, this prosperous metropolis is as seductive as ever. Find out more with our businessperson’s guide to Guangzhou
Where to stay
We selected the Shangri-La, having heard it’s the Guangzhou hotel most conducive to business trips – and the recommendation was soon vindicated.
Its positioning is perfect. Flanked by two highways – one of which goes to nearby Shenzhen, the other to the airport 30km away – it’s situated five miles outside the city centre, with half of its 704 rooms overlooking the Pearl river, with the metropolis to the left. Just outside is the Pazhou Complex, which hosts not only the biannual China Import and Export Fair, but also a business expo of some kind 365 days a year.
We stayed on the executive floor, which meant getting access to the Horizon Club Lounge – a major business perk, not just in terms of the suit pressing and shoeshine services, but also because the lounge itself is a quiet, comfortable and impressive setting for important meetings, whether over drinks and buffet snacks in the main room or in one of the meeting room facilities, available for two hours per day for each guest.
Add to that the well-appointed finery and luxury one expects of a Shangri-La hotel, plus five restaurants – including an all-day dining buffet, Japanese, Thai and Italian options and one serving local fare – and there was almost nothing more we could ask for when conducting a trip of this nature. A business-tripper’s paradise.
Where to eat
One of the oldest restaurants in the city – it opened as a teahouse in 1880, and quickly became a haunt for late Qing dynasty literary giants – Taotao Ju restaurant in the Liwan district serves up fantastic dim sum and traditional Cantonese cuisine. Book well in advance if you’re thinking of meeting up with business associates – Taotao Ju gets packed most evenings. The crispy roast goose has been known to bring the gastronomically savvy to tears (in a good way). Famous past regulars include literary giant Lu Xun, and celebrated 20th-century painter Liu Haisu.
What to see
The 600-metre-high Canton Tower in the Haizhu district was briefly the tallest tower in the world (it was surpassed by the Tokyo Skytree in 2011 a little more than a year after it opened). It still boasts the world’s highest ‘Ferris wheel’, albeit a horizontal version, which offers 360-degree views of the sprawling city, including the Pearl river, which winds back towards the Shangri-La. Those seeking solace from both bustle and business should make an immediate beeline for either Yuexiu Park in the city centre or, if you have more time on your hands, Baiyun (‘White Cloud’) mountain – a lush scenic spot packed with historical relics to the north of the city.
The cultural pointers most of us are familiar with generally ring true: punctuality is valued hugely in China, so always aim to be 10 minutes early; a formal approach to dress will convey respect, even if you’re dealing with a fairly casual company. Acknowledge, and hand out a business card to, the most senior person in the room first, using both hands to receive theirs in return.
More complex, though, is the issue of ‘face’ – which can loosely be interpreted as dignity, or reputation. It’s hard to gain a nuanced understanding of the face issue, but generally, avoid criticising business associates or their proposals in front of others and consider giving ‘face’ occasionally by verbalising positive feedback for all ideas and proposals discussed.
For the plane journey
With a flight lasting more than 14 hours, via a Hong Kong connection, there’s ample time to catch up on some relevant reading and viewing. Movie-wise, try Wong Kar-wai’s classic, effortlessly cool In the Mood for Love; read 1992’s The Republic of Wine, by 2012’s Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Mo Yan, and the ever-reliable Lonely Planet China travel guide, by Damian Harper. For business advice, consult Jonathan Story’s China Uncovered: What you need to know to do business in China, or Doing Business With China: Avoiding the pitfalls, by Stewart Hamilton and Jinxuan (Ann) Zhang.
Shangri-La Hotel Guangzhou, 1 Huizhan Dong Road, Guangzhou 510308
Taotao Ju 20 Dishifu Road, Liwan, Guangzhou