Written by Kathleen Hatch, Assistant Director, Global Business Center
Each year during the month before the University of Washington starts, groups of students led by UW Faculty travel to all parts of the world to explore a topic and a world region. This fall, I was really lucky to co-lead a program focused on how internet and technology businesses are transforming in China. We spent three and a half weeks meeting with companies and learning about Chinese culture in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guilin.
China is moving fast. Walking around in Beijing for just 8 days is enough time to notice that the whole city seems to be lurching forward. Our hotel was located near the center of Beijing, and when we arrived they were remodeling a store on our block – the sidewalk was completely torn up and the store was gutted. By the time we left Beijing to take the high-speed train to Shanghai, the store was open for business with merchandise hanging in the window. The growth and development of the city is not just something that you can feel, you can actually see it happening.
This was my first trip to China, and it was an incredible experience to meet with company executives and hear firsthand about their challenges and opportunities. We met with Sina Weibo, a microblogging platform that has taken off in China and is now expanding internationally. Our group visited Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group in Beijing – the second largest Microsoft campus next to Redmond. Their mission is “Innovation in China, innovation for the world.” Each year Microsoft invests two billion dollars just in Research and Development. Our speaker, Sam Zhong, Group Program Manager of the Strategic Partnership Group, talked with us about how innovative and entrepreneurial the Chinese are. He said Beijing feels like Silicon Valley in its height.
We received a presentation and toured the manufacturing floor of Tektronix. We toured UPS – their Shanghai offices are the largest in China, and they are located right next to DHL. When asked about their competition, our speaker responded that they embrace the competition and hope that this will help to further develop the system of logistics in China. Our group visited Lenovo which represents 36% of the PC market share in China with HP and Dell as their major competitors.
We watched cars being assembled at Hyundai, and our group crammed into the apartment of the founder of an internet start-up called Wodache.com, where computer programmers sat at the kitchen table on their MacBooks. Between all of our company visits we also found the time to attend a National Chinese Orchestra performance, hike the Great Wall, and eat a lot of delicious noodles and dumplings.