Saturday, December 20, 2008

Final Thoughts from Shontrai Irving

I have been back from China for almost a week but I can't stop thinking about my wonderful experience. It is quite hard for me to imagine that not so long ago that I and the other participants were on the other side of the world and participating in activities that we had never done before. One of the most memorable was climbing the Great Wall of China. I can not believe the size of the Great Wall and the amount of effort that it took to climb it. It was truly enjoyable watching Ozzie, Dr. Feldman, Stephanie and myself taking photos with our medals that stated we had climbed the Great Wall. I am sure for many of us, it is a crowning achievement.

I also think about our time at the Forbidden City and Yu Garden. The Forbidden City was incredible. I think it was over 2 million square feet. Pictures nor words can never truly describe the humbling experience of being in the Forbidden City nor the beauty of the Yu Garden. It was also momentous to be at Tiananmen Square which I have only seen and heard about on television.

Additionally, I learned so much from visiting businesses and organizations in China. One place that l will always remember besides JUN HE law offices is our visit to ZPark. That place is so amazing and it it so impressive that competing businesses are able to work together so productively.

On another note, a special thanks to our host Jennifer for setting up an amazing experience. I truly can not wait to return to China as I totally enjoyed myself from not only a professional level, but a personal level as well.

I am indeed humbled and will never forget my experience.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pamela Quintero's Memories of China

Now that I have returned home and have had time to reflect on my many adventures in China, I realize the enormity of this experience. I am thankful to Purdue, Lori, Pat and ChinaSense for making this trip a success.

From a Business standpoint, it is clear that there is an enormous level of professionalism and pride in the accomplishments of the businesses we visited. I was impressed by their willingness to share their stories with our group and allow us to view operations. Most noteworthy for me, was the visit to the Lenovo plant. I was amazed by the efficiency of the plant’s production line and the transparency of the workers’ performance. There is a great emphasis on the impact of the individual on the plant’s total production goals. I also greatly enjoyed the candid and welcoming discussion at the Junhe Law Offices. I was impressed by the stature of women in the Chinese workforce and I was intrigued by the countries focus on the corporate and financial facets of law.

From a cultural standpoint, I found the people of China to be exceptionally gracious. There were several times when individuals would stop to ask where we were from and ask about Chicago. There seemed to be a genuine sense of interest in the visitors to their country. There were some occurrences that took some getting used to, like the mass exodus of employees at closing time in the shopping mall, the tendency for people to walk arm-to-arm in order to not get separated in large crowds, and the super-charged haggling when shopping. I appreciated the opportunity to experience a culture and a people not unlike the people of America. It is clear that the people of China are motivated, hard-working and share the same values and dreams. The food was surely different – although I found some dishes to be familiar and quite tasteful. I have returned to my fork and spoon but am happy that, with the chopsticks lessons from Lori, I was able to participate in this unique facet of the Chinese culture.

The strenuous excursion to the Great Wall was unlike any other adventure. The history of the Wall and the knowledge of how and why it was built are awe-inspiring. The tour of the Forbidden City and lovely Yu Garden provided a snapshot of how life must have been centuries ago. I will never forget my brief time in China and look forward to returning some day in order to experience the many places that I did not have a chance to visit – like the Peking Opera House.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Watch for travellers' reports

Don't leave us yet! Please come back and look for reports from our student immersion travellers about all of our business visits and you too can learn a bit of what we learned this week. The reports will be posted right above the update for the day we visited the relevant business.

Check back soon!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 8 - Adventures for those left behind

Although most everyone headed back to the US today - and will try to recover enough to go to work on Monday - three of us stayed in Shanghai for one extra day. Pat and I are leaving tomorrow, Monday, and Tricia is leaving on Tuesday.

This morning before breakfast, I heard some calm, soothing music coming from outside and went out to Nanjing street to see tai chi being practiced. It was most interesting! There were several groups, each with their own leader. Some were slow and deliberate, some were more athletic, and yet others were quite artistic. This tai chi exercise was taking place on Nanjing Street which is a pedestrian only shopping street. Here is a picture of it during the daytime - but it is really quite amazing at night with LOTS of neon lights; it rivals Times Square in NYC. By the way, that tall building in the background, with the flying saucer-like object at the top, is the bar that I mentioned in the post for last night.
Our hotel is only one block from Nanjing Street. Along with great shopping and quick access to the Bund, Nanjing offered some familiar food for those of our travellers craving KFC ("ken de ji" in Chinese) and Pizza Hut. That's a picture of our hotel to the right.
After breakfast Tricia and I headed out for a day trip to the Venice of the Orient - the 900 year old water town of Zhouzhuang in the province of Suzhou. Zhouzhuang is typical of what Shanghai was like 300 years ago. This is considered the most beautiful of China's water towns and is visited by many Chinese tourists, but not as many foreign tourists. Tricia and I would urge you to go if you have the chance. It was great to get out of the big city and see a different side of China. Earlier in the week someone mentioned their surprise at seeing so many signs in both Mandarin and English. Well, when we got out to Zhouzhuang we saw very little English - very little. But, it was great. It was a charming town as you'll see in the pictures below. Our trip started out at 9:00 am and we got back at 5:00 pm. While it took us only about an hour to get there in the morning, it took us 2 hours to get back in the afternoon. We got a good taste of Shanghai rush hour traffic!
Built during the Northern Song dynasty in the 11th century and with a history of more than 900 years, Zhouzhuang showcases the architecture of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The many different styles are reflected in its ancient mansions and houses built on both sides of rivers, bridges, canals, and narrow streets which are actually more like alleys. This small town of 22,000 inhabitants (in both the newer and ancient sections) is situatiated in the city of Kunshan between Shanghai and Suzhou and surrounded by five lakes which makes boats the most important means of transportation. The town (name means Zhou's village) is named for Zhou Digong a devoted Buddist who donated 200 acres of land to the Quanfu Buddist Temple.
The town was a modest fishing village until the 1400's when it was transformed into a bustling trade hub, creating many rich and famous merchants along the way, most notably Shen Wansan. Mr. Shen was the first millionaire south of the Yangtze River. He made his fortune by trading good such as silk, silk embroidery, rice, and find China within China and then expanding his trade area to most of South Asia. His 200 sq. metere home, with 100 rooms is a major site to visit in the town. His home contains many of the treasures he collected during his travels as well as showcasing what life was like for the "Bill Gates" of the time. One of the interesting sights was the kitchen with its beautiful painted cabinetry.

Zhouzhuang is particularly known for its waterways - thus the name "Venice of the Orient" - and its many bridges. The town is built in the shape of the Chinese character # which means water well and befittingly it is adorned with many bridges - 14 in all - connecting the narrow streets and residents. Each bridge is personalized with names such as Taiping (Peaceful), Fu'an(Wealth and Security) - built in 1355, but the most distinct ones are the Twin Bridges build in the Wanli reign during the Ming Dynasty.

Source: Zhouzhuang tourist brouchure

Tricia and I also enjoyed the Quanfu Buddhist Temple and the Chenxu Taoist Temple. Our guide, Nick, explained gave us a very quick understanding of the two religions. I will attempt to present you with the simplified version he presented us with, but any errors or omissions are mine alone. Nick told us that one of the key Taoist philosophies is "let it go" and one of the key Buddhist philosophies is "control your desires". Both temples were very peaceful and Tricia lit candles and burned incense at the Taoist temple.

Zhouzhuang has some very nice shopping for "small things" as Nick called them. The town is particularly known for its identifiable blue fabric with a white pattern. We had a good time exercising our bargaining skills and came away with some very fine purchases. One of the first shops we purchased goods wrapped our items in a Chinese newspaper with a picture of Obama on the front page. The Chinese all seemed very interested in the election of Obama, noting that he is an excellent example of the best of America - one can rise to be even the president, no matter your background. One other interesting thing we saw on our walk was portraits of Chairman Mao posted in several restaurants.

After a lovely long walk through the town we were more than ready for lunch. Nick took us to a restaurant "upstairs" at which we had a table with a great view of the canal and all its activities. He helped us order and then headed out for a some local snacks - particularly chicken feet. Our meal was somewhat more tame. We had delicious sauted greens, a braised fish with a GREAT sauce, and tofu with clams. It was a very relaxing lunch and a great view.

After our lunch we continued our walk and then headed for home. On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the main lake in the area for a view of one of the local delicacies - hairy crabs. Hairy crabs? Yes, hairy! Take a look at the picture below. It shows a male hairy crab. Take a look at the big pinchers - see how they look furry? The famales are not adorned with the fur. SO interesting!

Tomorrow we will go see the Shanghai Museum which Tricia says is on the list of 1000 Places to See Before You Die.

Day 8 - Last day in China and Maglev Ride

Our last day in China.....

Few went for breakfast. Why? Because there were last minute bargain shopping to do! Eventually at 1:30pm, it was time to leave the hotel for the airport...although some 6 minutes before then, Chin wanted to hop out to KFC at Nanjing Street for a bite to eat!!! But I ever so gently discouraged that as the bus was about to leave :-)

Jenny - from ChinaSense - said a few kind words to the group in the bus and bid everybody farewell. I also wished everybody well (I leave tomorrow, Monday, with Lori). Someone yelled in a funny joking voice "we love you Obi." I ditto-ed that and added "I'll see y'all on the other side of the Pacific!"

All in all, it was a warm and somewhat emotional farewell to our hosts in China and to the wonderful people of this great nation. The food was great although some of the entrees take a little gettting used to. It certainly was an "immersion" in Chinese culture, as the program promised :-) Chopsticks are foolhardy, although it seemed that I was the only one struggling with them at the dinner table. Most importantly, the learning experience at all the business visits more than met our expectations. We will surely remember the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, ZPark, Orion, Audrey's law firm in Beijing, Lenovo, US Consulate, Acrobatic Show in Shanghai, Yu Yuan Garden, Old Shanghai, among many memories.

And so now, everybody is homebound. Along the way to Shanghai airport (Pudong), most would get off the bus to take the maglev to the airport. Maglev? It's a magnetic levitation train that runs at a top speed of about 425 km per hour! That's what's up!!! An exciting way to cap an exciting Study-Abroad visit to Bejing and Shanghai by MBAE-10.

Day 7 - Farewell Banquet and Sky Dome Bar

Why, oh why, must all good things come to an end? It seems like we have just arrived and we are getting ready to leave tomorrow. There is SO much to see and do. This trip has only whet our appetites for this huge, wonderful country.

Tonight we had our farewell banquet at the lovely Xian Qiang Fang restaurant in the Chengning District. The building has was once a factory and has been renovated into a beautiful facility. You can see some of the architecture in the picture on the right.

After yet another wonderful meal with more food than we could imagine, we thanked our hostess Jenny for the wonderful trip she has arranged - nicely balancing business immersion with cultural immersion - and for all that she has done for us. A number of travellers also shared their thoughts, reflections, and comments with the group.
For the final night, all were invited to the Radisson Hotel Shanghi New World's Sky Dome Bar. This bar is at the top of the hotel and offers 360 degree views of the entire city at night. Some say this is when Shanghai is the prettiest.
A last night to reflect. A last night to remember. A last night to think about the question that Jenny posed to us on the first day, "Is China a communist country or a capitalistic one?"

Raquel Park's continued reflections

I would like to say that I am very happy to have been able to come on this trip. It has been very enlightening - spiritually, personally and professionally. I truly enjoyed all of the wonderful business presentations as well as the company plant facility tours.

I have come to learn and appreciate the following:

Shoving is OK (In China) – shoving is a way to get through a crowd and is not personal on any level.

Chinese driving – IF YOU CAN DRIVE IN CHINA, YOU CAN DRIVE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD! Taxi’s, bicyclists and motorists are all aggressive drivers. Cutting other drivers off on the road, coming close to collision with another car, bus and/or pedestrian is a part of life. However, road rage is not. Again, just as shoving in crowds is a means to get through the crowd, so is aggressive driving a way to get through traffic. No angry retaliation is sought over this.

Saving face – What an interesting phenomenon! When you are out haggling for the best price on an item in the market, it is impossible to walk away without hearing, “You’re mean! You’re so tough! I lose money because of you!” I believe this response is to save face. The seller comes down to a price that may be embarrassing if the other vendors or other prospective buyers witness the transaction. So in order to “save face,” the seller has to “act” upset about the deal so as to not lead on that they have “been had.”

Tipping and/or covering another’s costs else is frowned upon – While out dining in Beijing, the bill arrived at the end of the meal, and as a gift to my Chinese friends for showing me around, I attempted to pay for their meals. I quickly learned that this form of gratitude was inappropriate. It was explained to me that tipping and/or paying for another’s costs implies a form of superiority, misconstrued as if the other person could not afford the purchase. Also, tipping is again viewed as a derogatory gesture – the people take pride in their work; extra money implies superiority and excess.

Chopstick usage – Oh My! My biggest struggle! However, even though I believe it is very important to embrace the local culture, I was happy to see how patiently hospitable the Chinese have been by handing out forks with the meals without having to be prompted.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 7 - Afternoon Update - Yu Yuan Garden and shopping

Today we visited the incredible Yu Yuan Garden. At the left is our group in one of the areas of the Garden and at the right is Felix, our wonderful Shanghai guide. Felix has been so helpful in arranging side excurions and helping us find the best shopping. It was a very nice bookend to our first day in China at the Great Wall.

Yuyuan Garden is a famous classical garden located in Anren Jie, Shanghai. The garden was finished in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. Yu in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying, and this garden was specially built for Pan's parents as a place for them to enjoy a tranquil and happy time in their old age. In the 400 years of its existence, Yuyuan Garden had undergone many changes. During the late Ming Dynasty, it became very dilapidated with the decline of Pan's family. In 1760, some rich merchants bought Yuyuan Garden and spent more than 20 years reconstructing the buildings. During the Opium War of the 19th century, Yuyuan Garden was severely damaged. The Yuyuan Garden you see today is the result of a five year restoration project which began in 1956. The garden was open to the public in September, 1961. Yuyuan Garden occupies an area of 20,000 square meters (about five acres). However, the small size is not a representative of the attractions of the garden. The pavilions, halls, rockeries, ponds and cloisters all have unique characteristics. There are six main scenic areas in the garden: Sansui Hall, Wanhua Chamber, Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, Yuhua Hall and the Inner Garden. Each area features several scenic spots within its borders.

This was an incredibly beautiful home with amazing architecture, stone paved walkways, decorative arches, and koi ponds. One of the highlights was having all of us clap to bring the fish to our area. When they hear the sound, they believe they will be fed. Luckely Tom had some peanut butter crackers with him that we crumbled up and fed to the fish. Pat and Stephanie were luckey enough to actually put the food directly into the fish's mouth.

Another highlight was having Prof. Obi pull out his financial calculator when we were at the ATM to calculate exactly how much we had withdrawn.

The Yu Yuan Garden is surrounded by a fantastic market with architecture typical of the old Shanghai. The scenes and smells were amazing! We saw one child eating a fried frog. There was also something that looked like Chinese matzo ball soup that also looked delicious. It was a spectacular place to shop and people watch. There were even TWO Starbucks in this area.

It is particularly true that in this case a picture is worth a thousand words, so please view for yourself the wonderful scenes we saw today. I believe I took more than 100 pictures during this outing and it is SO hard to choose which ones best represent our journey. These are only a very FEW of the fantastic scenes. We hope it gives you a sense of what we've seen. Please remember that you can double click any image to enlarge it and see more detail!

After this exciting excursion, many travellers are resting up for our evening activities. Tonight is our farewell banquet and we will post more after that.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Report on Lenovo by Raquel Park, Chin Park, and Patrick Kirkwood

Our visit to Lenovo was very informative and comprehensive. We were hosted by Christina Wang, the production operations director. She has been with Lenovo for ten years and was gracious enough to be present even though she was not feeling well. The overall visit began with several presentations and ended with an intriguing tour through the production plant.

As a company, Lenovo is a global leader in personal computer technology. It was founded in 1984 by 11 researchers with a $25,000 initial investment. As of March 31, 2008, Lenovo has 23,000 employees. Revenue generated in 2007 was approximately $16.4 billion. In Lenovo’s quest for global authority, they purchased the IBM personal computing division, including ThinkPad.

Currently, Lenovo has three international design plants – Yamato, Japan; Beijing, China; Raleigh, North Carolina. These plants are designed to encourage and foster new ideas, embracing many cultures to gain a competitive advantage in the international market place. Lenovo has 46 premium labs to create the best-in-class products. For example, the Yamato plant houses the ThinkPad destructive test lab, and the Beijing plant houses the design lab. Its success has also been attributed to the customer service that delivers stunning experience and efficient and responsive parts logistics.

Throughout the years, Lenovo has accomplished many noteworthy achievements. It has ranked # 1 in China for 11 years in PC market share (surpassing Compaq, HP and Dell). Market share in 2007 was approximately 28%. In March 2004, Lenovo was the first ever Chinese Olympic sponsor. In 2008, Lenovo’s corporate citizenship involved donating RMB 10 million ($1.47 million US) as well as holding a candlelight vigil for earthquake relief efforts.

Lenovo is in a position to continue growing and succeeding in the years to come. It has been very successful throughout the years with innovation, quality and value by providing customers around the world with smarter ways to be productive and competitive.

Report on Shanghai GM by Barbara Thompson and Phillip Moore

Company Overview
Shanghi GM was established in 1997 through a 50-50 joint venture with General Motors Corporation and Shanghi Automotive. This venture was a 1.5 billion dollar investment between the two companies. The total facility employs 6,000 and maintains six operating facilitates and an administrative building. There are two distinct plants, each maintaining three buildings. Each plant is responsible for producing three vehicle models. The North Plant produces the Park Avenue, LaCrosse and the HRV (a hybrid vehicle).

The company participates in global purchasing but vast amounts of steel are purchased from a government owned entity named Bao.

Manufacturing Facilities
Production facilities are designed for flexibility enabling easy alterations to the production line to adjust for various product orders. Of the three buildings within both plants only one is fully automated, it is predominately used for vehicle warehousing of both unpainted and painted vehicles. The Body shop is partially automated and employees 150 individuals for welding and operation of equipment.

Shanghi GM has developed tailored vehicle models germane to the Chinese market and separate from offerings in the US. For instance, in the US the Regal is no-longer produced and the Excelle has not reached the domestic market. Vehicle offerings appear to be luxurious and environmentally friendly given their usage of the “ecotech” engine for the Buick Regal model a historic “gas guzzler” in the States.

Day 6 - Dragon's Eye, Lenovo, and Shanghai GM

What is Dragon's Eye you may ask? Great question! Dwayne is holding one in the picture to the left. It is a very interesting Chinese fruit. It has a very tough skin that you have to pierce and then peel away. It has a very big, shiny, black pit in the center of an opaque white fruit. When peeled, it really does look like an eye. This fruit was part of the array provided at our breakfast. It seems somewhat tasteless, but as Dwayne said "I'm immersed!"

Our first business visit this morning was to the Lenovo plant where they make desktops, laptops, and handheld computers. We were hosted by Ms. Chrietina Hua, Director of Production Management at the plant. Lenovo is a 24 year old computer manufacturer which has been focused primarily on the Chinese domestic market. They do also focus on developing countries such as Russia, Brazil, and India. The company was founded in 1984 with 11 researchers and US$25,000. Today they have more than 23,000 employees and revenues of more than US$16 billion. Lenovo currently has the #1 computer market share in China with all other competitors coming in at less than 10% each. Ms. Hua noted that Lenovo has outpaced the market for the last 11 quarters. Lenovo was also the first ever Chinese Olympic Partner. They joined such world-class brands as VISA, Kodak, and McDonalds. The sponsorship was the kickoff of a multi-year marketing plan to promote the lenovo brand locally. The staff at Lenovo was kind enough to give us a tour of their factory. We put on our white coats, hats, and shoe covers and headed off to view assembly of computers, learn about part of their performance monitoring system, and their corporate social responsibility activities. By the way, we were not allowed to take any pictures inside the plant. The staff at Lenovo took these for us and put them on my laptop before we left the plant. Thank you!

Our second trip was to Shanghai GM, a 50/50 joint venture between GM and Shanghai automotive. The SGM staff first showed us a model of the plant and the we were allowed in their showroom. In the pictures below you can see Raquel, Patrick, Manvel, and Shontrai near one of the plant's products. In the second picture, you can see Prof. Obi pointing to the sticker price of that same vehicle. Note that the exchange rate is about 6.8 RMB to the dollar. Calculate that out in dollars!

Again, we were not allowed to take any photos inside the plant itself. Once inside the plant we were surprised to find that the assembly line was down - no employees and a still line. Our host said it was "between shifts" and that they would be back soon. We tried to walk slowly and ask a lot of questions but we left disappointed not to see the plant in action. In any case, at least it was relatively quiet and we could learn about their manufacturing process.

After a long bus ride back to the hotel in Shanghai rush hour, everyone went their own way. I am sure some took a nap, some worked out, and many went to explore Nanjing Street Pedestrian Walkway and also the Bund.

Here are a few other fun things that I learned from Jenny during our bus travels.
  • The Chinese characters that make up the word Coca Cola mean "Delicious taste, delicious smile".
  • According to Confucius, a wise man is "one who understands others."
  • In the whole thousands of years of Chinese history, there has only been one empress who was the leader of the dynasty (rather than just the wife of the emperor). Her name was Tzu Hsi. She was sometimes referred to as the Dragon Empress.
  • There is an office building in Shanghai called "The Opener" because at the top of this very tall building it looks like a bottle opener. It has that same rectangular shape cut out.
It is hard to believe that we've been here almost a week. Almost everyone is over their jet lag and we are all wishing the trip was longer. There is SO much to see and learn about in this facinating country

Tom Beyeler's thoughts on size and scale

In Chicago, downtown is pretty much centered around Michigan Avenue. Manhattan is much the same as the center of New York City. Here in China the cities are so large it is hart to tell where “downtown” exists. Everywhere there are skyscrapers. Each day as we drove around Beijing on our way to visit our tour destinations we would see areas that were full of huge apartment buildings and office skyscrapers. Any of these areas could easily qualify as “downtown” in an American city. It is much the same here in Shanghai. As we drove in from the airport we saw a dazzling display of huge buildings. The size of these two cities is incredible. The skyscrapers in Chicago and New York are impressive. The sheer number of skyscrapers and the fact that they are spread throughout the cities make Chicago and New York seem small in comparison. Our host at the American Consulate described cities of four to five million people as second tier. He summed it up best when he said it’s all relative when compared to Beijing and Shanghai.

Day 6 Reflections - Barbara Thompaon

Howdy everyone! Ok, I’ve been asked if I could follow-up with any other experiences tied back to my hair and elaborate on my hair’s attention grabbing status. So, let me paint a picture for all of you who asked. I’m an African American female with mid shoulder length “locs” also known as “dreads” or “dreadlocks”. Under normal circumstances I believe my ethnicity would grab a few looks but it really is my hair that people want to touch and talk about.

Our group attended a Chinese Acrobat performance where for the sixth or seventh time I heard similar verbal references to my hair but this time it was coupled with hand gestures that made it easier for me to understand that the topic of discussion was indeed my “mane”. The women that sat in the two rows behind me were ecstatic that I 1) understood there interest to engage and 2) there desire to touch and exam my hair. We held an entire conversation with hand gestures and at no point did either of our communication attempts become overwhelming frustrating because we treated it like a game of sorts….charades even.

At the end of the show about five women from the group approached me waved, gave me a thumbs-up and reach to my hair and conjured the word beautiful. The fact that they sought me out to share their one word expression was a moving and humbling experience. My Lesson: The action behind the sentiment can sometimes be stronger than the words used to express the thought... even in international waters.

Day 6 Reflections - Jennifer Benson

Greetings from Shanghai! It’s been a very eventful and exciting trip so far. Climbing the Great Wall was one of the most challenging yet enjoyable experiences yet. I never would have guessed it would take so much out of me! I continued to get stopped on the wall to take pictures and shake hands with individuals for whom seeing someone with blonde hair was a rare occasion. The shopping in Beijing was like nothing I’ve seen before. Darin has become quite the negotiator. As one of the locals there said, he “is very stingy”.

We arrived in Shanghai yesterday afternoon and it was apparent from the moment we stepped off the plane that we were in a whole other city. I have heard some compare Beijing to Chicago and Shanghai to New York. There are so many tall buildings here and the view from the room is incredible. We went to presentations from Orion China and the U.S. Consulate. I found these presentations to be the most interesting yet. Afterwards, we went to a Chinese Acrobat Show where I saw people doing things that I did not think were humanly possible. After the show (and some during the show) almost everyone went directly to sleep and Selena and I took that opportunity to check out the café in our new hotel where we were able to enjoy some coffee, tea, and desserts and converse about the trip thus far.

For the first morning since I left the U.S. I finally feel rested and I am looking forward to many more exciting experiences during the remainder of the trip!

Look forward to seeing everyone soon!

Report on Orion China by Patricia Siwajak and Manvel Robinson

Orion China
A talent sourcing firm in Shanghai

Anyone who has ever thought about working overseas, as a contractor, full-time employee, or intern, would have benefited greatly from Brian and Patrick’s presentation. The two gentlemen spent more than 80% of their careers in the Asian and European markets and were able to give first hand information about their experience from both sides of the coin, previously as employees and now as recruiters. One of the primary points that stood out was from a statement made by Brian, “when thinking about working overseas you must define if your reasons are one of the three: cultural experience, exposure or compensation.” In addition, you should also consider opportunities within in your company that will allow international exposure; chances may be greater with your current company.

Working overseas requires similar characteristics that are needed for the everyday national workforce, but they may differ slightly. The first attribute Brian mentioned was being opened minded, which would allow one to grow, maneuver through small issues and is needed to refrain from petty hang-ups. The next trait for success was adaptability, when moving to another country there may be a drastic change from your everyday meals and language, both which can be tested or practiced in your homeland to identify such barriers. Humility and flexibility are additional qualities international employees need to uphold in their everyday workforce. This will allow you to establish a comfortable livelihood within your international work environment and the area in which you reside. Often, foreign employees are met with challenges to think longer before they react, vigorous assessment of the risk can avoid unforeseen culture clashes. The last personal trait considered necessary is relationship building, it is needed in any market, but starting or continuing a career in a new country it is essential more than ever to establish creditability and to obtain resources to continuously grow within the company.

Looking to become an expatriate? See below information to ponder.

Common characteristics of successful leaders in international business
  • Possess a multicultural foundation; born, grew up and or schooling in different countries
  • Diverse background
  • Able to adapt to different cultures, this is necessary to be able to successfully manage, for example: the management style in the US is more direct whereas in China the management style is less direct but more complex.
  • Coming from a developed country to work in a less developed country is tricky and provides a huge cultural shock. You need to look beyond yourself and look at the community you are joining. In some countries such as Japan a foreigner will always be a foreigner, it is tough to be accepted.

Issues for an expatriate explained by “The Iceberg Principle"

1. Rationale- visible

  • Career achievement
  • Expatriate benefits

2. Emotional challenge

  • Prejudice
  • Culture
  • Time
  • Tolerance
  • Politics
  • Ego
  • Tolerance
  • Family
  • Language

3. Critical Success factors

  • Technical and management experience (function specialist)
  • International experience
  • Multicultural mindset (means constant adjusting and measuring yourself and self awareness)
  • Commitment to learn
  • IQ- EQ and culture
  • Willing to learn new language
  • Willing to get yourself out there for possible "raw" exposure
  • Patience and speed
  • Guanxi building (relationship building is important everywhere it is overplayed in China) can be a time water- you need to approach the personal within business objectives within long term perspective
  • There is a completely different way of looking at ethics in China though China is moving more towards corporate governance
  • You don't need to take on 100% of the new culture though you might need to change the way you work. For example: in Hong Kong, the work day ends at 9pm.

Before sending your resume

  • Understand why you want to work in China
  • Is there an international opportunity within your current company?
  • You can't go to China with the expectation of finding a job, you need to have the job before going there. There is too much local competition
  • Be prepared for setbacks
  • Realize you could possibly be spending time internationally without career advancement or benefits.

Day 5 Update - Transfer to Shanghai, Orion China, US Consulate General, and Chinese Acrobat Show

Today was a VERY long but interesting day in so many ways. We all got up very early, and got on the bus at 6:30 am for a ride to the Beijing airport for our domestic flight to Shanghai. Check-in was smooth and efficient. However, weight limits are different for flights within China and we were over our limit - as a group - by 80 kg. You can tell that we had a good time shopping in Beijing!
Our flight on China East airlines took off on time and even thought it was only a two hour flight, we were served a very nice breakfast including congee, vegetable salad with 1000 year old egg, yogurt, and a pork sandwich. Pretty different from the drink and peanuts we've grown accustomed to in the US!

All of our luggage arrived without delay and met our Shanghai tour guide, Felix. On the ride to the hotel he told us about Shanghai - did you know this is a city of approximately 19 million residents? Our own Chicago has a population of just about 3,000,000 residents. In China that would be considered a third, and possibly fourth, class city. Just think about that for a minute. The scale of everything here in China is different! If Shanghai were a country, it would have approximately the world's 40th largest economy! Shanghai is a gorgeous, cosmopolitan world class city. And yes, driving in Chinese cities is very interesting. There are busses, cars, bikes, and pedestrians all believing they have the right of way! From even our short exposure to the city, it seems to be living up to its reputation as the "New York" of China. Continuing the analogy, Beijing would be the Washington, DC of China.

After arriving at the beautiful Shanghai Central Hotel at about 1:00 pm, we unpacked, grabbed a quick lunch and headed out for our business visits for the day.

Quick aside - both of the hotels we have seen have a very interesting energy saving
feature in the rooms. When you enter the room there is a slot for your key card on the
wall. When you insert your slot, power begins to flow to the room. When you remove
the key, say when you are leaving, the room goes into a "power save" mode and lights
and appliances will not work until the key card is re-inserted.

Our first business visit was with Mr. Brian Sun (Founder and Managing Partner) and Mr. Partick Courtois (Principal Consultant) of Orion China. Orion China is an executive search firm. Mr. Sun talked to us about "Common Characteristics of business leaders who can seamlessly navigate across borders, and how you can develop them." Some of those common characteristics included being a functional or domain specialist, exportable academic credentials, sound communication skills, sound decision making, multicultural sensitivity, and the ability/willingness to be mobile (that is, move across the world). He also noted that two very critical success factors for managing in a foreign country are EQ and the ability to manage remotely. Brian and Patrick answered many, many questions from our group. Perhaps one of them - or one of you - will consider a foreign posting some day! If you would like to learn more about Orion China please visit

Following our conversation with our hosts from Orion, we met with Mr. Francis (Chip) Peters who is a Commercial Officer with the US Commercial Service - part of the US Department of Commerce and with the US Consulate General Shanghai. Mr. Peters is a career diplomat with the Commercial Service, has been in China about 3 years, and will be heading to Thailand at the end of year. The US Commercial Service counsels US companies wanting to do business in China, conducts trade promotion encouraging companies to do business in China and advocates for US firms. He shared with us why Shanghai is an attractive commercial target for foreign companies - it has an ideal geographic location, a high concentration of multi-national companies, a more transparent business environment (good relations with the government), an educated workforce, and excellent infrastructure. He also noted some challenes to doing business in China - high workforce turnover (about 14% in 2005), intellectual property rights protection issues, transparency issues, predictability of regulation changes, inconsistent implementation of standards, and a fragmented logistics industry. You can learn more about the US Commercial Service at . Chip also referred us to an important website for companies considering doing business here. You can find the "Are you China ready" quiz at Mr. Peters' presentation provided us with critical background and framework for our other visits.

Following this visit, we again had time for only a very quick meal. A few of us went to KFC - one of the first fast food providers to do business in China. The concensus was that it was different from the US, and possibly better. I had a wrap with fried chicken pieces, hoisin sauce, and cucumbers. Because we wer so hungry the salty and greasy fries were just delicious!

Our evening event was a sight never to be forgotten! We went to a Chinese acrobat show called ERA: Intersection of Time. Their website notes that "ERA is a multimedia odyssey whose inspiration is a direct result of the combination of traditional Chinese acrobatic arts and modern technology. ERA is a love story, yet it is also a contemplation across the millennia, a fascination with that other dimension man has yet to conquer: time. ERA's acrobats are on a quest to find that tenuous point of balance, the intersection between X, Y and Z. Not only will the audience be amazed by the acrobats' control and precision, they will be enchanted by the world that is created through the use of multimedia, technology, lighting and sound effects, elaborate costumes, original live music and a lot more. As such, ERA can remain universal, without language or cultural barriers. A thousand-year-old gesture is worth a thousand emotions, a thousand images, a thousand words ……". Frankly you have to see it to believe it. We were stunned and amazed at the amazing feats they performed. Since we could not take pictures during the show, here are some from their website. The picture to the above left shows motorcycles, driving at high speed, inside a steel ball. At one time there were more than 7 in the ball at one time. Amazing, just amazing. Finally, here is one picture we were allowed to take after the show - Patrick with some of the wonderful performers.