Software and hutongs and buses, oh my

IMG_0178Today was a really packed, informative day.  We started out with a presentation by Francis Zhang and Johnson Chen of F5 Networks, a company that has found significant success in the Chinese market by entering relatively early (2001) and being patient and consistent.  We then hopped on our bus with our guide Elaine and visited the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing, a large and impressive compound designed by a world-reknowned architect and filled with incredible works of art.  We spoke with press officers, commercial officers, and economic officers; the sheer complexity of the environment in which they are operating was eye-opening.  As we toured around the lobby area to see the art collection, we passed by Jon Huntsman, the new U.S. ambassador to China, who just came to Beijing in August.

After an enormous lunch at a Belgian restaurant called Morel’s, we visited Microsoft’s new offices just northeast of the city center.   Mr. Fengming Liu, a UW Law alum, gave us an illuminating presentation on their intellectual property challenges since entering China in 1992.  For example, Windows 7 is set to launch in late October of this year, and they have already found versions of the software online, as well as the security key (removed now, so no need to go looking for it, you pirate).  The sheer size of the Chinese market is difficult to imagine, but we’re definitely getting a better idea after hearing from these companies and organizations.  (An additional special guest at the meeting was Felix Liu, just about to start his senior year at the Foster School of Business; it seems like everywhere we go, more Huskies appear).

After the MS visit, Elaine took us to the lovely Houhai Lake area, which is surrounded with “hutongs,” narrow traditional alleyways with low multi-family houses surrounding small courtyards.  We took a rickshaw tour of the area, and had the opportunity to visit a hutong compound that is currently occupied by 26 members of the same family, five brothers and their wives and children (one per family).

After all this activity, we were hungry and ready to explore the Wangfujing area and try some Beijing street food.  We struck out on foot only to find that, due to the rehearsal for the 60th Anniversary celebrations, all the streets were closed off and filled with military equipment and buses full of children in matching dance costumes.  Huge military vehicles rumbled by with what appeared to be large missiles draped in canvas, and a nearly endless line of buses headed towards  Tian’anmen Square.  Every store and restaurant on the street was closed and will remain so all night.  After a bit of exploring, we found a restaurant (all on our own, without Elaine or Ming, who speaks Mandarin), and enjoyed a wonderful meal for about $5 each.

The working portion of the trip has come to an end.  We’ve learned a lot, and we’ll surely be processing it for some time to come.  Tomorrow, we will visit the Great Wall, and since I scheduled nearly no time at all for shopping, hit some markets in the afternoon.  It’s supposed to be rainy, but hey, we’re from Seattle.  After a farewell dinner together, we’ll be off on our various flights home on Sunday, after what I believe to be a successful pilot faculty study trip.

Posted by Krista Peterson, Associate Director, Global Business Center

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