By Aaron Pressman
December 5, 2017

Greetings from Guangzhou, China, where Fortune is hosting Brainstorm Tech International, a gathering of Chinese and other technology executives focused on innovation in the world’s fastest-growing tech market.

It was a packed day, beginning with a breakfast with the mayor of Guangzhou, an important commercial center in China when Shanghai and Hong Kong were still fishing villages, and entrepreneurs from the region. Over the course of the day I hosted a competition of Chinese entrepreneurs, whose companies ranged from an innovative provider of insurance to a maker of advanced scooters for getting around town.

Guangzhou is stunning, by the way. Just before lunch I snuck in a walk around the central square near the glorious Canton Tower. A museum, a sports stadium, the public library, and a baker’s dozen of magnificent skyscrapers each was far more interesting and architecturally noteworthy than Salesforce Tower, San Francisco’s only current brag-worthy project.

Back at the conference, I realized I’d traveled halfway around the world to hear a compelling commercial yarn about a company next door. Airbnb is making a go of things in China, largely on the strength of a robust market for helping Chinese tourists find places to stay on trips outside China. Nathan Blecharczyk, the company’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, recently has taken on the role of chairman of Airbnb’s China business. He said the company is thriving because it is treating China as the singular market it is. It provides Mandarin customer service around the clock to Chinese tourists. Business took off when Airbnb started accepting Chinese payments systems.

At the Fortune Global Forum, which begins Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing a trio of tech heavyweights: Tim Cook of Apple, Pony Ma of Tencent, and Terry Guo of Foxconn. Cook spoke earlier in the week at a Chinese Internet conference, where he said “technology itself doesn’t want to be good. It doesn’t want to be anything. It’s up to us—all of us—to insure that technology is infused with humanity.” I plan to ask him what he meant by that.

Adam Lashinsky


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