Tag Archives: China

International Study Tour – Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City

Guest post by Kathleen Helal, Class of 2012Tiananment Square

During our Beijing visit, a bizarre storm came in and blew out all the smog, dusted the city with snow, and cleared the skies for a picturesque visit to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The day began with a walk through one of the largest public squares in the world. Tiananmen Square is rooted in political history, from its origins as a monument to the Communist Party to a number of political events and protests. Many of us remember the protests of 1989, which resulted in the death of hundreds of protesters, bans on foreign press, economic sanctions, and widespread arrests.

It is hard to capture in a photo how large the concrete square is, but I can say that there are no tall buildings to shield the cold wind! There is also an enormous flat screen in the middle of the square, evoking a tourist-like Times Square feeling. Vendors wander the square selling souvenirs and much needed earmuffs. As we huddled for numerous photos to stay warm, we walked over to the Forbidden City.

Luckily, commoners (such as MBA students!) are permitted to visit the Forbidden City. This vast complex of buildings is impossible to see in its entirety. It contains numerous palaces, halls, museums, galleries, temples, and gardens.  As the imperial palace and the home of emperors, it was also the political center of the Chinese government. In China, we learned quite a bit about harmony and balance in society and culture. The imperial family and those who resided within the walls enjoyed the life of luxury here, sheltered from the conditions of the common people. This would eventually cause their downfall. It is interesting to draw parallels between this and what we see in the corporate world today. When high-powered executives isolate themselves from their employees (physically and financially), the organization experiences an imbalance.  Speaking of imbalance, do you remember the Starbucks controversy here? They opened a store at this cultural site, and had to close it in 2007. Seeing all this historical architecture and centuries of tradition and a meticulously planned site makes one wonder what they were thinking in the first place when they decided to open a Western TMMBA Students at the Forbidden Citycoffee enterprise here! (I will admit that a hot cappuccino would have been nice to have that day…)

Although it was cold and crowded, we managed to get through a number of the sections and emerge in tact! No one got lost in the mix. At least we were not the tour group in the matching Burberry knock-off hats! I am proud to say that our group did just fine without that level of coordination.

China misunderstood

Guest post by Glen Jensen, Class of 2012

Before visiting China I generally believed what I’d been told by the US media. I was led to believe China was the great colossus untapped mega-market of 1.5 billion people. I was also led to believe the Chinese are generally unhappy and repressed by an oppressive government who wants to control their every move on the web.

We visited Motorola and this visit put the Chinese market into perspective. Using the cell phone market as a general indicator of the overall market size and strength. The total Chinese market is 1.5 billion the effective market is only 180 million as compared to the 200 million US market. This made the potential market for goods and services not seems so colossal.

What I found was the charter of the Chinese government is one of harmony, inclusiveness and stability. The safeguards put on the free speech and the internet are towards this aim. Although this is repressive to our sensibilities the motivation is not so “evil”. Because of this repression I have been led to believe that if the “Great Firewall of China” were knocked down the Chinese people would come knocking down the doors of Facebook, Twitter, Google and the like. However, from experience I found the great-firewall is more of a nuisance than a true blockade and any site can be viewed with only minor inconvenience. What was interesting is that nobody in the west mentions the following of Baidu and Sina-Weibo the Google/Twitter equivalents in the Chinese market. The Chinese people choose the product which is tailored to the local market and even when given the choice to adopt a US web-product they often prefer the local product.

If you are going to enter the Chinese market make sure understand the market and come with an compelling product tailored to the local tastes. If you come to the Chinese market with an incompatible product, don’t blame the Chinese government for your failure. I believe this is cause for the lack of adoption for Amazon.cn and the out and out failure Google in the Chinese market.

International Study Tour – The Great Wall, Jade Shop and Farewell Dinner

Guest post by Ananth Raghavan, Class of 2012

TMMBA Study Trip Excursion - The Great WallThe first of our cultural activities in Beijing was a trip to the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall was a fair bit of distance from the Novotel Hotel, which gave ample time for our guide Jack to tell us about the history of the Great Wall. The Great Wall, as we learnt, was actually built in several sections by several dynasties of Chinese emperors with a similar purpose of offering security against the tribes and warlords from the North West. The section of the wall, we were visiting, was the Mutianyu Great Wall.

After a sumptuous lunch, we arrived at the Great Wall. Jack had warned us that the vendors selling their wares at the foot of the Great Wall might try to outsmart us and hence we decided to interact with them in small groups instead of doing so one on one. As it was a lot colder than we had anticipated, many of us ended up buying hats and gloves.

After a short but steep hike to the start of the wall, we took a cable car up to one of the higher sections of the wall. Unfortunately, there was a very thick fog that day that limited visibility to no more than a few yards. This was indeed disappointing as we had all hoped to see miles and miles of the Great Wall and instead had to be content with a few feet. Still, we could feel the presence and the grandeur of the magnificent structure around us and it was quite inspiring.

While we had the option of taking the cable car down to the start of the Great Wall, a few of us decided to climb down the steps of the Great Wall. The steps were pretty rough and jagged with some steps being extremely narrow and others being comfortably wide. However, we all reached down safely. Once, we got down, a few of us purchased souvenirs like magnets and mats from the vendors where we got a chance to exercise our bargaining skills.

Our next stop was a Jade Shop where we had one of the shop managers tell us about the different varieties of Jade and Jadeite. She also showed us how to distinguish between real and fake jade. Real jade is cooler, does not scratch unlike glass and has more richness when held against a light source. After the quick tour, we browsed their selections and purchased some jade jewelry for friends and family back home.

Two days later, we had our farewell dinner. Although we still had one more company to visit the next day, with most of us leaving back to the US the next day, this was our last dinner together as a team After a busy day in Tianjin, we returned to Beijing for sampling the world famous Peking Duck. Being a vegetarian, I did not partake in this. However, the other students and staff, who did, thoroughly enjoyed it. Personally, I was quite disappointed as a number of supposedly vegetarian dishes had meat in it and the waiters just did not seem to understand what “no meat” meant.

At the farewell dinner, Dan thanked our guide Jack for keeping us safe, helping us get to all of our appointments as well as entertaining and informing us about Beijing and China in general. Mikaela had earlier collected gratuity for Jack, which Dan then gave him along with a box of candy from the US to thank him for his efforts. This brought about an apt end to proceedings.

Singapore, China: Excites, Adventures and More

Guest post by Xiaoyuan Su (TMMBA Class 2012)

As a native Chinese, this International Study Tour to Singapore and China is special to me, as Singapore is a nation with a majority of population as Chinese ethnically, and China is my homeland.

The trip was exciting, and I think it is different for each person. When I did a survey during the farewell dinner in Beijing, a majority of the non-vegetarians think the most exciting portion of the trip happened in Singapore. However, as I observed, ISTers spent more money in China, especially in the jade market and tea store. For Westerners, Singapore is more comfortable and China may be more interesting (Quote from Lisa). While some classmates especially like the Singapore guide Lim’s comments during her guidance for us, I am not a fan of Lim, who kept complaining that Chinese from mainland China are willing to take jobs at lower salaries etc.

The company visit to GE Water was great. As we had a case study of GE in our leading organization change course, we were well prepared to the culture of the company. At the same time, the director of GE Water gave us a high-profile presentation and Q&A. Singapore Airlines was fantastic, the onsite experience of emergency handling training field, the pilot room, and the first-class cabins were all exciting. I hope there were not too many of us got offended when the presenter of A*Star stated that only a few students there know UW as more go to MIT to pursue higher education. As I learned from a friend of mine who is working for A*Star, Singapore students have multiple sources of funding so that they can get admitted by elite universities without the need to get sponsored by scholarships there. It’s interesting to mention that three of the four presenters of our company visits in Singapore were from foreign countries and all of them apparently work and live there happily.

I might miss a lot of fun in Singapore during the free time on March 14. I gave a talk on recommender systems (which is my research topic) at Nanyang Technological University. I was 15 minutes late due to a series of episodes, and found a group of young researchers sitting in the room waiting for me, each having a representative paper of mine in his/her hand. I got many good questions during the talk, and I used the TMMBA professors’ (especially Bigley and Ali?) favorite answer to handle the questions: I will get back to this question soon. After the talk, the hosting professor asked me to attend a research meeting with his graduate students.

What’s the buzz in China? Is it shopping? I hope not. Telling the truth, I really don’t know what the true values of the jade works are, even if they are authentic, jasmine+gold, and whatever; and I don’t have a close estimate of the sales margin of the fancy teas. I bought 50-yuan rose tea from the market Jack (the popular Chinese guide) led us to and none for jade as I have many jade products at home already. So I hope the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Hotong tour are much more interesting to my classmates. Otherwise, eating out for Peking duck, drinking at night bars, massaging, exploring the street at night are also fun.

Wait. Did we visit any companies in Beijing ? Yes? at least Amazon. The supply chain management principles are applied well in the Amazon fulfillment center in China. The purchased products are efficiently dispatched to ordering customers there. We visited the office of US China Business Council, which made our trip to China appearing official. The TEDA visit happened in Tianjin, another big city in China. The port city appears dusty everywhere, which is a reflection of China: the factory of the world develops fast at the cost of environment. TEDA administrates a big economic and industry zone of the city of Tianjin as it hosts foreign companies, JVs, and incubates startups with attractive policies. We also visited two foreign company-controlled local logistic companies, one with a small conference room, one was presented by a less-than-fluent English speaker (where TMMBA turned to be PMBA in their greeting display in the lobby).

Almost an adventure in my homeland. I extended my stay in China to visit my parents and other extended family members in Suzhou, a neighbor city of Shanghai. I spent an afternoon and evening for our high school classmate reunion, a special reunion for me. During the dinner, when I tried to show off my recently acquired US green card to my classmates, I found the one in my wallet was something else (I took that by mistake due to a hectic pre-trip rush). The mistake forced me to stay two more days in China as I have to hold my own green card to get out of China and return to USA. I therefore had chance to spend more time with my parents, my brothers and their families, and my friends in my hometown. As I was lucky enough to get timely help from a Chinese lady who was returning Shanghai from Seattle and took the green card to me, I did not get stranded aboard because of my insanely careless mistake. However, I had one more problem: I got a cold during the two days beyond schedule.

Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area

Guest post by Sumedha Kukreja, Class of 2012 International Study Tour participant

天津经济技术开发区TMMBA student at TEDA during the International Study Tour

On March 19th 2012 morning, we took a 30 minute bullet train ride to Tianjin. TEDA is about 38 km away from Tianjin downtown. It is considered an important part of the Tianjin Binhai New Area.

TEDA stands for “Tianjin Economic-Technological Development area”.  It was established in 1984. TEDA is divided into 3 industrial parks: TEDA industrial park, Yet–sen Scientific and Industrial Park, and Microelectronic Industrial Park.

We were met by Jianning Li (representative for Chicago), Peidong Lin (representative for Dallas), and Yu Xiaoran (project manager for section of Europe and America).

Before TEDA was marked for development, the area was used to harvest sea salt. Most of the development has taken place in last 30 years. Motorola was the first company to set up a factory in this area. By the end of the year 2010, about 4870 foreign funded enterprises from 74 countries were represented. In the first 10 years there was 25% growth in GDP. In recent years growth has slowed down as the cost of doing business in TEDA has increased. As of the end of 2010, total investment in this area has been over $62.2 Billion. Progress of TEDA has been boosted by its superior geographic location. Its closeness to Tianjin Port allows it to have access to over 400 ports in 180 countries worldwide. Also, to the west is the Tianjin Binhai International airport, which is a major airport for the transportation of cargo and passengers.

Some of the major companies that have invested in this area include Samsung, Honeywell, Toyota, GlaxoSmithKline, Coca- Cola, KYOCERA Solar energy, and TOHO Lead Recycling. It was interesting that when Toyota set up manufacturing in TEDA, its numerous suppliers followed it to the area.

To promote TEDA the organization has set up offices in 9 locations around the world. In order to attract investors, TEDA provides “one stop “service for investment policy consulting and procedure consulting to projects approval. I was not expecting the transparency and fairness in legal system, which TEDA promotes.

To support the investing companies and to attract prospective employees, TEDA has constructed schools, university, childcare centers. Tianjin has 55 higher education institutes, from where 60,000 students graduate every year. TEDA has partnered with various colleges and technical vocation schools across China to build adequate Human Resource pool.

What struck me was the amount of effort Chinese government was putting in to attract foreign investment. Tianjin looked like a busy city with heavy traffic. Apparently the infrastructure is not able to keep up with the development.

Another thing, which was striking, was the smog and the high level of pollution in air and water. TEDA officials commented that their goal in near future was to reduce carbon emissions. To this end they are working with different international companies to promote environmental sustainability. They are making efforts to create a sustainable environment, but the effects are not yet apparent.

Overall, I felt that China has made deliberate efforts to promote economic growth through financial and economic support and the lessons learned in areas like TEDA are being applied to develop new areas.

What your business needs to know about Media in China?

Guest post by Krishnan Ananthanarayanan, Class of 2012

Media as a whole is undergoing a large transformation due to social media. The number of print media is between 7000and 10,000 (depending on whom you ask) and will be squeezed into a niche corner of the market.  Television in China is a $2.25B industry and the government regulates the content. For instance, there are bans on reality shows, shows that pertain to time travel and crime related programs.

Websites in China on the other hand allow many of these banned contents primarily because a forward-looking board of the government regulates them. There are websites such as the micro-blogging website Sina Weibo, which are very popular amongst the Chinese, and these websites can be used for effective marketing. The Chinese investigative media is also very strong. It is okay to criticize policy but it is NOT okay to criticize the top leaders of the party. The Chinese government does a good job at keeping international crimes alive in the minds of the Chinese and uses this as propaganda and as an effective control mechanism. Cultural awareness is key to running a successful business in China. Due to the history of attacks, Chinese sentiment can easily turn against foreigners in China. It is also critical to be sensitive of cultural issues not just within China but also across the world. For instance, Japan an advertisement showing the imperial lions bowing to a Toyota. This advertisement was never screened in China, but Toyota got a lot of heat after Chines bloggers found this advertisement on international websites. The history of wars with Japan only added to the heat.

It is also critical to realize the role of media in the Chinese government. In the United States and in other democratic countries, the media represents an independent voice and its role is to question government policy. China however follows the Leninist movement in which the Party is all-powerful and the role of the media is to serve the government and not to question it. It is critical for a foreign national to realize this key difference. Once this difference is understood, it is easier to understand all the other aspects such as censorship, control over the programs, bureaucracies for obtaining a license to host a website etc.

China places a great deal of importance on the consumer more than that of other western nations. On “National Consumer Day”, reporters run investigative reports on companies on Television and it is up to the company to defend its position on the issue under discussion. Top companies such as McDonalds have come under fire for selling inferior quality goods in China. The Chinese consumers take quality very seriously. If a company is suspected of selling inferior goods in China to make up for profits, the company is very likely to be ostracized and will find it hard to gain a strong foothold. Companies should go beyond seeing China as a low cost manufacturing center and start seeing it as a global market with a large population that has a big appetite for high quality products from across the world.