Tuesday, July 2, 2013

MBA Spring 2013 Trip to China

Michael Betts, '13
The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the plane into China was the quiet.  I have traveled through most of western Europe, parts of Latin America, and places in between.  Those trips made me familiar with the cacophony of people talking over each other, airline employees shouting announcements, and the general bustle of a large mass of people.  This was my first trip to the Far East and the reception could not have felt more different.  People stood calmly and patiently, the announcement of a new line through customs opening up was made silently with a handheld sign, no words, and our natural American curiosity in what was going on around us didn’t seem to be returned.  It was lesson number one and I hadn’t even left the airport yet.  As my visit to China progressed, I learned that this public composure is a very normal thing.  I experienced it in Beijing and Shanghai, in airports, on trains and in subway cars.

Our purpose in visiting China was to learn something of its culture and its business norms.  We visited a number of companies including Baidu, Douban, Bao Steel, a German Industrial Center, an arena run by AEG, and an economic partnership area between China and Singapore.  We also visited a number of cultural and historical sites, including the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Great Wall of China.

The Great Wall is a bucket list item for many people.  It is an extremely unique experience to walk along the stone wall that once divided “civilization” from the “barbarian” hordes.  The wall goes on as far as the eye can see and is rather incredible.  The Forbidden City was most interesting because we were somewhat of a tourist attraction ourselves.  Millions of people visit the historical sites in Beijing every year and almost all of them are tourists from within China.  Many of them are from much more rural areas where they have, perhaps, never seen a westerner.  They were particularly interested in a red-haired classmate of ours.

It was extremely fascinating to learn about business in China.  The economic environment is changing very quickly and we had an opportunity to visit private Chinese companies, state-owned Chinese companies, and foreign companies doing business in China.  We visited established manufacturers and internet startups.  We had a chance to compare the capitol of Beijing and experience its intense nationalism and the metropolis of Shanghai and how it has been influenced by the global economy.

China’s role in that global economy is constantly evolving and the value of this trip to our understanding of the future business environment cannot yet be fully measured.  I could write for pages about all of the experiences we had there, about things like hutongs, Jade Buddhas, administrator’s gardens, Chinese markets, the role of the Chinese government in business, the Chinese hospital system – the list goes on.  I consider it, without question, to be one of the most valuable things I have done during my MBA experience at Terry.