For all its reputation as the city of tomorrow, a place that will marry capitalism and cool as effortlessly as New York City or London, the city of Shanghai, truth be told, is not a particularly pleasant place during the summer. It’s a steambath, and when the occasional typhoon blows through, it will rain for three days nonstop. Many of the streets simply reek as garbage rots in the oppressive heat. Most people, if they have a choice, try to avoid Shanghai this time of year.
Meg Whitman would not be among those people”at least not this summer. If the CEO of eBay, the world’s most successful e-commerce company, had to write an essay titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” it might begin, “I didn’t have one. I went to Shanghai instead, trying to figure out the China market, because my company’s future may depend on it.”
In February, Whitman said that for eBay, “market leadership in China will be a defining characteristic of leadership globally.” Lots of big-time CEOs say things like that these days. Few follow it up by summering in Shanghai. The company cast Whitman’s stint in China as business as usual. “She goes there quite a bit [but] it’s not too extraordinary,” says Matt Bannick, president of eBay’s international division. “You know, Meg travels a lot.” Whitman, in an e-mail interview with Time, says, “China is unique. It is growing rapidly, and it has a tremendous amount of potential, which is why we have made it a priority for the company.”