Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The New China Central TV Buildings

This is a picture of the new China Central TV buildings - one of which was destroyed in a fire at the end of the Chinese New years in February. As the story goes, someone at CCTV authorized a spectacular fireworks show that did not have a permit from the local police. One of the rockets hit the building and destroyed it and it must now be replaced. The problem is that it sits on a foundation shared by the other building and replacing it may cause structural damage and possible collapse of the unharmed building. The director of CCTV was fired this weekend because of this.

Kogod Graduate Students - Nanjing Visit

From Wuxi it’s a two hour ride North to Nanjing, a major city on the Yangtze River. Here we visited the French Hypermarche Carrefour and got a reality check on the differences between Chinese supermarkets and those in the USA - big difference (by the way, you have to pay for your bags!) In terms of tourist sites, we visited the Sun Yat Sen mausoleum, the nanjing massacre memorial and the Yangtze River bridge. Sun Yat Sen was the founder of modern China in the sense that he was able to topple the last emperor and install a fledgling democracy in 1912…he is revered in the same sense that we in the US revere George Washington, in the case of Sun Yat Sen, however, democrat rule was not to last and his party, the Kuomintang collapsed under the pressure of communist opposition led by Mao in 1946 - 1949…it is interesting in talking to our guides how much the KMT was hated for failing to repel the Japanese invaders and its tolerance of huge economic inequalities. This has a huge influence on the average Chinese perception of the “renegade province” Taiwan, no matter who we speak to – we get the typical party line that one day the two will be reunited and the KMT will see the error of their ways…hmmmm.

The Nanjing Massacre memorial pays respect to and honors the memories of the 300,000 citizens of Nanjing who lost their lives to the atrocities of Japanese invasion forces in 1937 – the crimes committed were appalling and the museum does a wonderful job of honoring the innocent victims. The Yangtze bridge is a fascinating triumph of circa 1962 Chinese engineering…it is anchored at each end by statues of students, soldiers, farmers, and others marching in celebration of communism…what is amazing though is that this is the first crossing of the Yangtze river and it was only completed (initially with Soviet help) in 1962 – imagine if the Mississippi had not been crossed until then – it’s another indicator of how far China has come…but! The problem now is that the bridge is too low and large ships cannot get further upstream…this in turn inhibits economic development in the inland areas…100s of trains also use the bridge daily and because of its historical significance there is resistance to replacing it…there is apparently a plan to build a canal around Nanjing to allow larger ships access…given the population density of this city (over 10 million), it’s hard to believe that this is viable – but – this is China – anything seems possible here.

Also in Nanjing we visited a high tech development zone and got the normal pitch about the organizational efficiencies in the zone: its ecological balance, high living standards, attractiveness to foreign multinationals and so on…..we then visited China Sunergy, maker of PhotoVoltaic cells for the solar energy industry. We saw solar cells being made, the clean room and what looked to be a lot of Italian made manufacturing equipment.

Update from the Kogod Graduate Students

Professor DuBois and Kogod MBA graduate, Mark Ray, at his company in Shanghai.

Students in front of the China Development Bank in Beijing - the column is made of stone from the Three Gorges Project which was financed by the CDB.

During the tour of the Olympic facilities, there was a group of Uyghurs there as well. The Uyghur is a minority group in the north (Muslim) who have been advocating for autonomy.

Undergraduate Visit to Shougang Group Steel Co.

They took great pride in telling us their steel built the Olympic Torch and the Birds Nest. Several companies proudly described the role their employees as volunteers for the Olympics.

As always, the course trip is becoming an experience of a lifetime for the students.

Kogod Undergraduate Visit in Beijing

Visiting the home of a resident of the Hutong neighborhood in Beijing.

Freedoms in China: By Professor Sicina

In my five years of travel experience to China, I have seen dramatic increases in freedoms in general and freedom of speech in particular. However, limitations remain.

Direct access to our Blog is blocked as is access to You Tube. Access to Bloomberg stories appears to operating normally. Some articles download. Anything on Asia seems blocked. Singh's reelection in India downloaded however.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Graduate Student Visit to the Shougang Group

On, May 18th we visited the Shougang group which is the fourth largest steelmaker in China and got to see red hot steel plates being pressed into thinner plates, we also saw the blast furnace in operation – iron ore converted to molten metal...amazing – its facility west of Beijing is in the process of being shut down and replaced with one on a manmade island near Tianjin about 220 Km to the East……imagine this in the US – building an island off the coast of New York and putting a steel mill on it – from a supply chain perspective it makes a lot of sense – most of the ore is imported and much of the output is exported – this takes a lot of transportation costs out of the equation which when you are dealing with something like iron ore and steel (low value – high weight) can be significant.

On the other hand...I wonder about the environmental impacts...I could never imagine something like this in the USA – although in Houston? Who knows…. Following this visit we lunched at a place run by a minority group from the South of China (Dai?) and then visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Our guide Tom was at the Square just before the crackdown (or incident as they prefer to call it) occurred. A few days before the “incident” his father, who was a soldier and an ardent communist, had a friend talk him into coming home where he was promptly placed under “house arrest” and locked in his room for three days to keep him out of the way of the events of June 4th...what a story!

Thoughts about the China Trip: By Kogod Undergraduate Student Mutluoglu Mark

I have traveled to more 30 countries in my life. Some are more developed and some are less, but I have never seen anything like China. I always heard things about emerging markets, but I never imaged that I could see the country growing; there are construction sites everywhere. In addition when I thought of china, I thought low-tech factories and old production lines, but that’s not the case. The companies in China are as developed as the companies in Europe or the US, if not more. Everything is new, high-tech and thought through in order to match world standards. So far I have only one word to describe the trip: “wow”.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kogod Graduate Students - Beijing Visit

We awoke early and made our way to the airport for a two hour flight to Beijing where we met in the afternoon with a representative of the China Development Bank….the CDB has as its focus loans for infrastructure projects that contribute to the economic development of the country. We posed for a group shot in front of a column made from stone sourced from the Three Gorges hydropower project – this is the expensive and controversial project that was recently completed and which is contributing 1000s of megawatts of power to feed the Chinese economic expansion.

Saturday and Sunday were focused on typical tourist things in Beijing – visiting the Great Wall (along with what seemed like most of China) and the Ming Tombs. Sunday we met with a nice group of MBA students from Beijing Normal University where the discussion ranged from job prospects for MBA’s in China (poor at present time), Taiwan (the “bad little brother”) and the one-child policy (seems to be loosening up). In the afternoon we toured the Olympic facilities including the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. I tried to get some of Michael Phelps magic water but alas it was not to be – apparently 99% of the people that enter the building have the same idea.

Undergraduate Visit to Suzhou Dongling Vibration Test Instrument Co.,Ltd.

Students working with International Business Department Manager, Jon Zhang

Kogod Undergraduate Students, Professor Sicina and International Business Department Manager, Jon Zhang

Suzhou to Nanjing: By Kogod Undergraduate Student Gabby Kuey

We are starting our three-hour route to Nanjing from Suzhou. These past four days have been filled with memorable moments of historic culture and opportunity. Starting off in Shanghai we experienced a China almost like Manhattan. It was much unexpected, even though China is known for it advancements, towers seemed to reach maximum height; from business building to apartment complexes. Shanghai is more known as a city of opportunity, filled with multiple jobs and a chance for a better life for the Chinese People. Compared to New York or DC the city opened late and closed early, yet people with no cause would walk around the streets at 5am with no destination.

Traffic in Shanghai was the worst of all, businesses that should have taken 20 minutes to reach turned into hours of sitting and pushing through masses of people on motor bikes and cars. It was also entertaining to see the blank faces of locals, as they looked at us in question. One would think that they’ve never seen an American before. With a friendly wave and smile, they would wave back in excitement.

Even though I’ve only been in China for four days the culture of the people is very apparent. From walking on the streets, listening to the business owners and how they function, the pride of their culture is at the forefront. Respect is key here, and it is a most important to understand their culture to get anywhere. Also patience, they are slow but with this pass, I believe it contributes to their success.

Suzhou has been my favorite so far. As soon as we arrived we visited a garden that made you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. More of what I pictured China to be like. The two businesses we visited today also showed the importance of teamwork. Here they don’t seek an individual for just their talents but also to develop those talents in a group setting. This “groupthink” method has definitely been a success. I’ve learned a lot so far; ever time I enter one of these businesses I have a new takeaway.

Kogod Undergraduate Student Perspectives

Jordan, Kogod Undergraduate Student
So far we've encountered an ideal balance of Chinese culture and business. The business meetings have provided us with experiences that are as similar to the real world as it gets. The lessons we have learned about Chinese culture range from hanging out in clubs with local to observing their over-the-top swine flu prevention antics.
Some highlights:
  • Rode the fastest train in the world.
  • Master Of Nate Garden in Suzhou
  • Walking out on a "western meal"
  • Fried watermelon
Sandy, Kogod Undergraduate Student:
I have always looked forward to visiting China because of its rich history and culture but I never imagined how different from the West it would be. The food, for instance, is something I never expected and as I sit sipping expired plum flavored soup out of a can in a Nanjing factory, I am reminded of that fact. In addition to ten other equally strange soup flavors, this company, Voho Soup, even has a before dinner soup that helps relieve the effects of alcohol on the body. The cultural usage of herbal and natural flavorings seems to affect all types of food here and it makes me very curious as to how the Chinese view American food since our palettes are so different.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some thoughts to date - From Professor DuBois

Hi Everyone, have been having some technical difficulties here in China trying to post to the blog...we’re trying a "work around" now that I think that will fix the problem.

So to bring you up to date – grad students arrived with no hitches on Saturday and on Sunday we did a little tour of Shanghai – mainly the Pudong area where we went to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center for an amazing view of the Huangpu River area and the Puxi area of Shanghai. What is amazing is that 15 years ago the Pudong area was a virtual ghostown – nothing but little farming communities and perhaps some cheap housing – it was only connected to the Puxi area by a bridge in 1998...that was when things took off and the developers have not looked back. It is now home to the largest skyscraper in the world (not counting antenna!) and numerous other interesting buildings – it's the area that hosts the Oriental Pearl TV Tower – the bizarre looking space age structure featured on all the stories about the "new" China.

The "old" China is, of course, still around and will be for years to come, bicycles and scooters are everywhere as are many "old style" neighborhoods. Also to think that Shanghai is representative of China is totally off base – it’s a unique city and development area and there are few places like it in China.

On Monday we had two company visits: Zhangjiang Hi Tech Economic Zone and Alstom...the Hi Tech Zone is an industrial park developed to attract “desirable” businesses to China.it offers a “cluster like” atmosphere and is essentially trying to build on the silicon valley model with similar businesses and a professional orientation building on proximity to Shanghai...most of the tech oriented Multinationals have operations there for software development, systems engineering, chip manufacturing and so on….we got the basic overview – sales spiel from the public relations person...tranquil environment, business services – even a patent law office in the area! Interestingly there is also a lot of movie animation (CGI type stuff going on here too) in fact its said that the most beautiful actress in all of China was created on a desktop here! Those of you that may be into “World of Warcraft” should note that the animation is done here.

Alstom is a French company that makes rail and metro cars and power generation equipment. China is a perfect location for them given the incredible transportation and power needs here. One of Alstom’s major markets is power turbines – they are supplying the three gorges power project and are involved with a number of nuclear power projects. They also sell locomotives and metro cars to the various rail companies in China. We got a great presentation from the Managing Director who had only been with the company for about 3 months after being headhunted from Siemens. Interestingly the Managing Director is also a government official and is part of the future technologies committee for the Party...one wonders what benefits Alstom might get from his involvement in this committee?????

Tuesday found us back in Pudong for a visit with China Telecom – one of the three large telcos in China – we got a nice overview of the company and the IT industry in China and the Asia-Pacific region...great visit and knowledgeable presenter. Interestingly, the government purposefully created the three companies so that there would be some element of competition in the industry...like three brothers competing to see who is the best?

In the afternoon we had a meeting with a former Kogod MBA student Mark Ray – he is now working for a consulting company (JLJ Group) advising firms on market entry and HR strategies in China. Mark gave us some great insights about the realties of Chinese business culture and the importance of “guanxi” or relationships...relationships, of course, are critical to success anywhere in the world but in China it goes much deeper and gets ever more complicated...things that are common here would get you in great trouble back in the USA.

That evening we headed North to a city called Wuxi – which means “no tin” and derives from the fact that many years ago there was lots of tin there which was mined to make weapons – given this strategic resource, Wuxi, of course, saw lots of battles as warlords fought over access to this critical component in weaponry...when the tin finally ran out…the city changed its name to "no tin" to convey to the warlords that they needed to leave the place alone!

We were to have visited the Solar Panel manufacturer Suntech here – but were canceled at the last minute due to concerns that we would be bringing the employees an unintended gift of A1N1 flu virus...as it turns out this is not the first that we will encounter this issue. The Chinese are very sensitive to what happened in 2003 when SARs hit the country and ravaged the weak and elderly. Several thousand deaths occurred which might have been prevented had the government been more quick to react to the evidence that there was a serious epidemic beginning to spread. I get the impression that now the government is overreacting in the other direction to underscore to the citizens that they are doing everything to prevent its spread….this seems to be the policy of President Hu. Hu also appears to be taking on other negative aspects of the Chinese system – corruption (at least at the surface) is more under control and there is a somewhat greater effort to have more transparency in government actions.

So in Wuxi, we stayed in a brand new luxury hotel in the new part of town – Wuxi is what could best be described as a Sci-Fi city at least in this part of town where there were bizarre looking buildings, brand new expressways and neon everywhere...but still the trikes being pedaled by tired old men and women with stacks of cardboard on the back of them – off to the recycling plant to make a couple of yuan.

Given our canceled meeting we spent the next morning at a movie studio on the shores of Tai Lake – this studio is where the 84 part series “The Three Kingdoms” was filmed and is now something of a tourist attraction when it is not being used as a set for other films by Chinese production companies...given that I think we were the only foreigners there we become something of an attraction ourselves with a quite a few Chinese asking us to pose for pictures with them. Later we took advantage of our proximity to the major freshwater pearl producing area of China and browsed the pearl market...then it was back on the road headed north to Nanjing. I will update you on the events there in a later post.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Visit to the Suzhou Garden

Suzhou Garden, built in 1180

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

China Telecom Visit

What's up in China? Days one and two

First few days, Kogod Undergraduate Students

We are wrapping up our second day of company visit in the financial services and technology sectors. We also visited the tallest building in the world (at least until the Dubai tower is completed) which is over 1600 ft high, and rode the fastest train in the world (250 mph). China's growth and technological advancement continues to be impressive in spite of some setbacks due to the global financial crisis.

Preparations are well underway for the 2010 World Exposition in Shanghai which likely will rival the Beijing Olympics. Students' excitement and energy levels remain high. Professors rest frequently.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bank visit in Pudong

Visit to Shanghai World Financial Center

The Shanghai World Financial Center, looking up.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Boarding the plane...

Health officials board the plane to electronically take passengers' temperature as precaution against swine flu.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Before Takeoff

Last minute preparations are underway.  While it's my fifth trip, it's never  boring.  China is amazingly different each time I go due to its rapid pace of development.  Also, each student group is different and their sense of wonder always energizes me.

For the first time on a course trip, we have a blog to record our reactions.  It should be fun to develop a group journal over the next couple of weeks.

Back to packing.