The driver pulled up to a small office complex in the heart of the city and beckoned us into the back of his scuffed white van. The surface of the vehicle was caked in dust and the seats, clad in new blue velvet, were sized for someone much smaller. I curled up in the back and we were off into the city, cars coming at all sides and bikes darting out in front of the unflappable driver, his smile never wavering as we drove.
I was on my way to a factory outside of Shenzhen, a city of 14 million people mostly dedicated to the manufacture of the things we buy. If it beeps, makes phone calls, or increasingly, if you can wear it, it's probably come from out here. We roll through the city to the outskirts and then onto a wide five-lane highway that rolls up through the smog, past rocks and hills that look like a stage set for a Kung Fu fable. This is modern China, a place of conflicting images and a world of untrammeled growth.