I've been off the blog and in meetings much of the week here in Beijing, and though I had good intentions of flying on to meetings in Tokyo, fate intervened and I instead encountered a Kafkaesque, Keystone Cops-like episode at the Beijing Capital Airport.
Let it be known that I very much like the Chinese culture and people, and also let it be known that I was extremely saddened by the turn of Monday's events with the earthquake.
It wasn't as though China needed more bad tidings in this, the year of their grand Summer Olympics celebration beginning on August 8th.
And terrifying though the earthquake experience in the wobbling IBM building in Beijing was for many of us Westerners, it paled by comparison to the horrors of what the Chinese citizenry must have experienced in Chengdu and the surrounding area of the earthquake's epicenter in Sichuan Province.
My heart goes out to them as they continue to search for and rescue survivors.
I learned a great deal in this, my first visit to the mainland of China (I visited the Republic of China back in April 2000).
China is opening itself up to the world in new and exciting ways, and it is responding to events like the earthquake with a more direct and open nature than historically has been the case.
By way of example, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao flew directly to Sichuan Province within an hour of the quake, and was seen communicating to the Chinese people most proactively in the Chinese news media.
There was also apparently some very frank and open dialogue about the disaster that appeared almost instantaneously via the social media, which has been warmly embraced by the Chinese (there are more blogs in China now than in the U.S.!)
This was due to both its mobility and its reach (including my own tweets about the earthquake via Twitter.)
On the business front, it was clear from dialogues I had with my own colleagues, as well as those representing partners of ours in China, that there continues to be immense opportunity here for businesses both domestic and international.
But I also experienced signs that there's still plenty of room for continued improvement, including the adherence to some basic principles of international air travel.
The new international terminal in Beijing, grand though it may be, cannot offset the disruption caused by a lack of orderly protocol on the ground by airline workers when something goes awry (in this particular case, Air China).
When a flight is cancelled, for whatever reason, it is most helpful and commonly expected that the airlines canceling the flight will make accommodations for its passengers, helping them promptly rebook and, when necessary, provide overnight accommodations.
At a minimum, it is helpful to communicate to them the status of their situation and provide regular updates.
It is not customary to require passengers to wait four hours to regain possession of their luggage so that they may leave the premises and gain much needed respite for their return visit to your grand air terminal.
If China is to find itself fully in the league of international business, lessons like these and others similar to them will go a long way towards improving its international visitors' perspectives on their experiences in traveling to China.
With no small measure of irony, and in a case that could only be described as "too little, too late," a nice young lady came over to my group of weary and exhausted travelers last evening to ask us if we would be interested in taking a survey.
The topic? International visitors' perspectives on traveling to China.
As I did in this blog post, I provided very frank and direct input on my impressions and perspectives, the good and the bad, the successes and the opportunities for improvement.
If they do listen, the Chinese will be a long way towards readying themselves for the business of the Summer Olympics and beyond.