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The 21 hour night

As I type this, the sun has just risen and is shining into my front room. It's a cheering sight: the last time I saw sunshine, if you can count the rather feeble version that makes it through the pollution haze in Shenzhen, I was drinking Tsingtao outside the Crystal Chill-Out Lounge in the CITIC City Plaza at 6pm local time yesterday, 10am Thursday GMT.

As I type this, the sun has just risen and is shining into my front room. It's a cheering sight: the last time I saw sunshine, if you can count the rather feeble version that makes it through the pollution haze in Shenzhen, I was drinking Tsingtao outside the Crystal Chill-Out Lounge in the CITIC City Plaza at 6pm local time yesterday, 10am Thursday GMT. The Starbucks and KFC had just turned on their lights, as had a market stall selling novelty table lamps modelled after naked boys standing with their hands on their hips. Modesty dictates that I don't say where the switches were. The shift was changing at the Crystal Chill-Out: it's rather disconcerting to see the staff (young women in pink kilts and white berets, young men in white shirts, black trousers and trendy haircuts) standing at attention in a line while their shift manager gave a long motivational speech from a clipboard. Let's hope it doesn't give any editors any ideas.

Since then, I've eaten three meals, gone through four sets of border checks, sat in airports for four hours and a 747 for thirteen - all the time, on the other side of the earth from the sun. It's nice to be back, and to be in a city where the air is clear and the beer is murky.

I'll write up my notes and interviews with Huawei for your delectation later: for now, here are some off-the-cuff impressions, while they're fresh.

China is overwhelming. Energy, commitment, focus, discipline are everywhere. So is a lack of confidence, a feeling that to relax that discipline would undo all the good of the first three things. That leads to interesting paradox.

Chinese driving doesn't follow the rules of the road: it is improvised choreography. I will never forget one particular taxi ride through Shenzhen - a remarkable city that seems to have been slapped onto the ground with a very broad brush instead of designed with any degree of detail - in a car with an interesting selection of illuminated "Stop NOW!" indicators on the dashboard, many more of which flickered on during hard braking. The driver exhibited psychic powers beyond science: he knew where spaces would open up seconds before he drove into them, and performed synchronised swerving with three lanes of traffic at 50mph that would shame the Red Arrows. He was also able to negotiate traffic lights while reading his newspaper; a particularly impressive feat that may well explain the Olympic-standard 100 metre dash that pedestrians employed when crossing the road.

And how that all works with old women peddling bicycles at two miles an hour while towing trailers full of vegetation through the middle of all the chaos... it's beyond me.

China is supposed to be desperately short of electricity. Perhaps if every structure larger than a stoat wasn't coated with retina-drowning cascades of multicoloured lights, it might help. Just saying.

If you want to know what the Internet would be like if it was a physical thing, visit the Lo Wu market. A mall with seven stories and thousands of tiny booths selling an IP-free array of knock-off watches, bags, clothes, toys, MP3 players, DVDs, memory sticks and just about anything else you can imagine, it's staffed by uncountable numbers of young salespeople who spot you coming a mile off and yell, sleeve-pluck, cluster and mob. "Mister! USB! Watch! Rolex! DVD! iPhone!". Ah, the iPhone knock-offs: I was going to buy one for fun, but they were so tacky I couldn't do it. The most unusual things I was offered were "You looking for USB?" (the USB stick on offer was apparently a "Sony 120GB") "No, thanks." "You want woman?" "No, thanks. Got one." "Oh. You want foamy socks underwear?"

I know. I should have said yes, and then I'd know what foamy socks underwear was, and so would you.

Almost no CCTV cameras. Anywhere. The ones I did see were clearly traffic monitoring devices, covering the bus station.

More, as they say, later...