People back in the US often ask me to describe what the city is like. At first I struggled to give a proper explanation... but I've come to the conclusion that Guangzhou is China's version of Los Angeles (without the hamburgers and movie stars). There is a sprawl of freeways, giant shopping malls, smog, traffic jams, diverse ethnic population, relatively high crime rate, lots of entertainment options, international trading hub, world class galleries, extreme wealth, extreme poverty, many different types of neighborhoods/districts, massive sky scrapers, exhibition places, city parks, etc... Guangzhou is also one of the most liberal and cosmopolitan cities in China. Yes, you will still see people spitting on the ground... but you can also enjoy a nice glass of wine or cocktail at a gourmet restaurant overlooking the Pearl River.
These are a few photos I took when walking around the city one night. If you ever spend some time in Guangzhou, I would encourage you to get out of the hotel room and explore it (it's a lot safer than many large western cities).