A Traveling CISO’s Observations from Xi’an China – The Kirkpatrick Report

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Observations from Xi’an China


By Al Kirkpatrick, CISO for Firestorm’s The Kirkpatrick Report


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Xi’an  pronounced “Shee-yun” is a large and very modern China city located just east of the middle of the country.   Whereas Beijing is described as symbolizing China’s future, Xi’an beautifully symbolizes its history.

Xi’an History

The center of Xi’an is a four square mile modern metropolis that actually reminded me of   Chicago’s miracle mile.   The difference however, is that the center city is completely enclosed by a 2,000 year old wall (8.2 miles around – 50 feet high and 50 feet wide at the top).  At the exact center stands the 2,000 year old drum and bell tower.   Drums were sounded at the start of the day to alert those inside and out that the gates would open.   Bells were rung at the end of the day to give people a few minutes warning that the gates would close.

Xi’an Growth

Outside of the wall, the city goes on forever with miles and miles of skyscrapers.   In the four cities that we have visited so far, I have observed literally over a thousand construction cranes (yes, 1,000) supporting projects of every conceivable size and scope.   There are so many of these cranes, that the locals joke that the “crane” is the new national bird of China.   China cities are undoubtedly in an explosive growth period.

Along with the urban growth, locals have reported that cost of living in the urban areas is also experiencing explosive growth.   The equivalent of an American mid-level management is hard pressed to support a family within the urban areas.   Real estate prices are through the roof with double digit inflation and apparently the Chinese government is studying this problem to determine how to avoid “price strangulation” within the cities.

According to all the vendors I have worked with so far, there is a suitable pool of English-trained university graduates (I believe that I mentioned earlier that many read and write English quite well but struggle with live communication).

Xi’an – BPO Wave

Whereas China has traditionally focused on being the go-to place for manufacturing outsourcing, the government has recently decided that business process outsourcing is an additional wave of the future – however, China is calling it “knowledge processing outsourcing” and billing itself as “office to the world.”


All of my local contacts have openly discussed the Chinese government.   There appears to be fierce pride for China, and yet some are choosing to emigrate, choosing locations such as Canada as a better and more affordable place to start and raise families, and to hopefully provide broader career opportunities.

Surprisingly, underneath the premier, being a member of the Communist Party is no longer a hard requirement for a government official; I was told that there are a couple of Vice Presidents (apparently the equivalent of U.S. cabinet heads) that are not!   Also, there are some women vice presidents as well.   The popularity of the Communist party, however, is reportedly on the rise.   The unusual mix of Communism and Capitalism seems to agree with the Chinese people.

Beijing Rail Accident

From the blog, I was asked about the Chinese citizens’ reaction to the horrible high-speed rail accident.   Again, my contacts appeared at ease in speaking their mind.   The population made it clear that they felt the initial government reaction was not urgent and reeked of cover-up.   In the end, the voice of the people resulted in the government amending its initial compensation offer to victims and approximately doubling it – – alongside a public apology by either the premier or prime minister (not certain what I was told).

 I can’t end my report without sharing my Saturday trip to the Xi’an site of the Terracotta Warriors.   The warriors a key part of an underground mausoleum built for Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.  The emperor worried that after his death, the armies of his enemies would attack his spirit.   So, after the prime minister convinced him not to bury his army alive, he had a complete, life size army cast out of terracotta (fired clay) and buried as part of his mausoleum.

A couple of farmers discovered the warriors 2,000 years later in the 1970s.   While the archeological recovery is not complete, a reasonably accurate estimate puts the army at over 8,000 warriors all arranged in defensive battle positions.   Most of the warriors have shattered over the years, and a team continues to re-assemble them – – the Chinese claim it to be the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle and after seeing it, I can’t disagree!  If you are unfamiliar with this underground army, I urge you to get on Google and introduce yourself.   I certainly see it to be one of the world’s greatest man-made wonders.

Next stop is Guangzhou (pronounced “Gwan-joe”)

I hope these articles continue to be of value to you!



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