Reflective Essay

One thing that I feel everyday in China is the hug gap between the rich and the poor, and the gap is widening. 30 years ago, most of the people could not even imagine that they would be able to buy a car in their lifetime, while nowadays, some people are born with a Maserati in the house and yet some still can not imagine to own a car in their lifetime. However, don’t get me wrong, the fact that some people are extremely rich and some people are extremely poor is definitely more promising than that all people are poor, since between the gap, a growing number of middle class are owning cars. Nonetheless, the constant contrasts I saw in China represent the challenges ahead for China to overcome. Sitting at Park Hyatt’s lounge bar at the 87th floor of Shanghai World Financial Center and overlooking Lujiazui, Huangpu River and the Bund was a completely different experience from visiting the manufacturing company in Shenzhen and seeing workers do the same thing over and over again for the entire day. On the one hand, the glamor of Shanghai and the elites inside the city’s skyscrapers is telling you that the country is fast growing and well-developed. On the other hand, the high turnover rate of manufacturing workers, the small dorms they live in, and the low salary they earn is telling you that the country still has a lot to do in order to achieve an “overall well-off society”.

Rapid urbanization may be one of the causes of this gap between the rich and the poor. As more rural areas are becoming urbanized, more people are leaving their hometowns for Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. How did those cities get so big? And why does so many people want to settle down in a tier one city, even with high price level, congested roads and worrying air quality. I think one answer might be that Chinese people are very driven to make a better living and are somewhat crazy about money at this stage, and big cities are where people have the biggest chance to make a lot of money and have a better life. Hundreds of thousands of constructions workers come to cities to find a job in building infrastructure, such as Disney Shanghai, skyscrapers, apartments, shopping malls and so on. Hundreds of thousands of undergraduates come to cities to find a job in finance, IT, health care, chemicals, pharmaceuticals company, and so on. Tier one cities offer the most opportunities since foreign companies and top-ranking companies will always place their headquarters or branches in those cities, and those cities also provide endless supply of new shopping malls, apartments, and office buildings to build, as the cities continue to expand. People also come to big city for good education and good health care. As the doctor in Zhongguancun Hospital said, everyone goes to tier 3 hospital for the even smallest illness because they think the best doctors are in those hotels.

However, no city can put up with such fast development and such an explosion of populations. As a result, the environment has been damaged. If water pollution and soil pollution cannot be directly noticed by people in daily life, air pollution is apparently influencing everyone. Personally, I coughed and my throat hurt every time I came back to China. The administration finally began to take actions in recent years. Many manufacturing factories have been either shut down or relocated to other countries since they could not meet the new standard. Government is spending billions of money to remedy the air quality. Pollution has caused both economic loss and decreased people’s happiness level. I was glad to see that many of the companies we visited are very environmentally friendly; some of them (Disney and Dow Chemical) are even setting a higher environmental standard for themselves using green technology.

Word Count: 650

On my honor, I have neither given nor received any aid on this assignment.

Carla Yang

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Finding China

A residual discussion among members of our group is how to talk about China. Though I’ve struggled to put a finger on it, something has made it an uncomfortable question to answer. Fortunately, I have such a wealth of good memories to fall back on.

One of my favorite elements of culture is food, and China’s cuisine did not disappoint. From dumplings that put UVA’s dumpling truck to shame to tongue searing spices in the Sichuan Province, I had the great pleasure of sampling a wide range of excellent dishes. I survived insects, congealed blood, and countless encounters with the “street meat” I had been warned about. I have always considered myself an adventurous eater, but China pushed my limits. I will not pretend to have enjoyed our adventure at the hotpot restaurant in Chengdu, but it stands out as a highlight for me, despite the pain and discomfort. Getting to sample food renowned for its unique and intense spice and commiserating with the other members of the trip who fair just as poorly with spicy food is a memory I will not soon forget.

I certainly blurred the line between “enough pictures” and “way, way too many,” but who could blame me? It seemed every day we were visiting site I’d seen in National Geographic—in fact, there were National Geographic photo shoots at both the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven while we were in Beijing! The draw-dropping skyline of Shanghai, the Forbidden City, the big Buddha, the Great Wall of China… I still cannot believe we were on the Great Wall of China!

The wonders of Chinese architecture through the ages astounded us at every turn. That workers, unaided by backhoes or bulldozers could accomplish the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project seems almost impossible. The scale of the temples we saw turned heads. One such example is the founding place of Taoism, atop Mt. Qincheng in the Sichuan Province, known as the Laojun Pavillion. The structure is more than eight stories high and houses statues of immense size. It’s a wonder it was ever built without a crane, but when you consider the location, the feat is all the more miraculous: it sits atop a mountain that requires an hour and one half hike that got the best of several members of our group. The prospect of hauling the great stones and pillars of the temple up the mountainside makes my glutes and quads quiver. It is easy to draw parallels between the unyielding spirit it must have taken to construct such a place and the industrious, meticulous, and ambitious Chinese workforce that now dominates international manufacturing.

To that end, I easily convey to my inquirers how valuable the business visits were. I went into the trip with the intent of gleaning as much as possible from interacting with these firms, and I sought with every visit to go beyond the mega-trends we learned about in class to see how being a business in China affected their operations. One small example is the average guest at one of Aetos Capital’s hotels is between twenty and thirty-five, indicating how much power, wealth, and influence are concentrated in younger generations.

Another example is the very different place Walmart holds in China compared to the US: here, Walmart is a category killer that squelches the competition through scale and viciously low prices. In China, the comparatively poor infrastructure and transparency of market do not allow Walmart to achieve the same level of supply-chain efficiency and subsequent low prices. As a result, Walmart is just another big box retailer, fighting a bloody price war against its competitors.

Perhaps the most insightful company visit was to the future sight of the Shanghai Disney Resort. A large part of the presentation we were given centered on how to make the park “authentically Disney, and distinctly Chinese.” We got to see how the incorporation of Chinese culture, superstition (a building which is built with the motif of the lucky number eight), and the Chinese love of all things big factors into the park’s plans. My exposure to these and all the other businesses we visited was a wonderful primer to my enrollment in the Commerce School this Fall, and it hopefully will allow me to add some insight to class discussion.

And of course the trip would hardly be the same without the fantastic group of travelling companions I was blessed with. It took all of two days for our motley crew to mesh, and even us second years were quickly welcomed. I loved being able to share moments like our little party on the Great Wall, the literally gut-wrenching experience of the hotpot, and eventually my acceptance into McIntire with such a fun group of people.

But for all these wonderful memories, the question “How was China” still troubles me. For some reason, I felt slightly off balance for much of the trip. Was I still stressed from finals? Was culture shock getting the best of me?

I realized in Hong Kong that it was anxiety stemming from my inability to immerse myself in the culture. I sought to find what makes business in China different from business in America. To a large extent, I found that. I wanted to see the sights and hear the sounds. I saw and heard them. But the entire time I was there I felt as though I was skimming the surface rather than diving in. Our second to last night on the trip, I took some time to reflect on a recent purchase. Forgive me as I wax poetic for the next bit, but I think what I wrote is pertinent to my experience for the entire trip:

    I feel I’ve done a good job seeing Hong Kong in the short time we have here. I’ve seen the big Buddha, the skyline at night, Lai Kwai Fung, and the Ladies Market. I got to lose money in Macau, and I even bought a painting to hang and remind myself of the good times I’ve had here. But more so than in any of my previous travels, I feel like I haven’t truly been experiencing Hong Kong.

    When I purchased the piece, the painter, an old, kind-eyed man lamented in broken English the state of his beloved hometown. “Hong Kong is dying,” he said as his silent companion nodding in knowing silence. “Tell your friends it’s too late to visit.” It was this melancholy statement that inspired me to search for the spirit of Hong Kong I felt I was missing, that whatness which makes (or made?) it such a remarkable city.

    New York’s is that of a peacock: big, loud, beautiful, and eager to show you exactly how big and beautiful it is. Córdoba’s is a sage old man that has been through it all but invites you to seek out stories of his splendor rather than shove them in your face. Capetown’s is gangly man that grew too fast and, for all its history, still is unsure if its future. But what is Hong Kong? Not that I expected to discover the secret heart of this town in a few hours time, but my wanderings and reflections tonight were entirely unfruitful. It still feels shallow. Huge and vibrant and shallow.

    I don’t think Hong Kong is dying, but I’m not sure the Hong Kong I was looking for ever even existed. Perhaps the painter’s Hong Kong is dying, though. Maybe Hong Kong is a phoenix. Born again and again, each time more beautiful, but different. More attractive, but less magical, looking with each rebirth, I think, more like a peacock.

“Hong Kong,” I said, “must have been a lot more English when you were a boy.”

“A lot more Chinese, too,” said Basil.                       -Pico Iyer, “Ghost in Central”

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Perhaps China is just too different from the world I know for me to overcome it all and feel part of it. But I think, more likely, I was looking for something that wasn’t there, trying to force a preconceived notion onto what I was experiencing. I realize now that I nearly missed the forest for the trees. I was so intent on finding some narrative for my time in China that I grew anxious in pursuit of it. Maybe the question “What’s China like” does have a proper response. My experience in China, though, was defined by food, friends, learning, architecture, and wonder inspired by a place I do not fully understand. I still don’t have a trite answer if you ask me “How was China,” but I have myriad stories and pictures I would love to share.

Wordcount: 1440

On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this work.

-McLean Hudson

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Looking Back and Moving Forward

After a week back stateside, it still doesn’t feel real that I was in China. The memories, the people, the company visits, and everything in between were some of the best days of my college career. This trip was a time for educational growth as well as personal growth, and if given the chance I would take this course again and again. 

For some bizarre reason, I pictured China to be a slow paced environment in a more rural setting. This trip totally destroyed all of my preconceived notions and opened my eyes to the melting pot that is China. As a girl from a small city in Florida, the city life blew me away. All of the cities we visited were large, modern, advanced places with bustling populations. The architecture was often futuristic and the design alone put most American buildings to shame. Though China is still a developing country, you wouldn’t be able to tell when walking down Nanjing Road in Shanghai or Coco Park in Shenzhen. It seems as though the economy is thriving and there is nothing but opportunity for growth in the cities we visited.

The One Hour China Book definitely helped in preparing us for the economic climate and trends in China currently. The most prevalent were the rising young consumer and consumer trends in general. There were luxury stores everywhere and just by looking at the younger generation, you could tell that they took pride in their appearance and were willing to spend money on it. We also noticed that it was hard to be vegetarian in China, because most restaurants cater to meat-eaters. Pork was the most popular meat, and there was a lot of chicken and beef as well. Though the quality of some of the meat was questionable, it was still always readily available for consumers. The increasing presence of meat is another part of China’s growing consumer demands.

It was clear that China’s economy is growing, but we also saw the contrast of the skyscrapers and lively downtown areas. Each city had very poor rural areas as well, where the apartments were lacking basic air conditioning and laundry was dried on the balcony.

Sometimes these areas were across town from the city, which offered a day and night contrast, sometimes they were just streets away. In Shanghai, the rural area was close to the airport and Shanghai Disneyland so it was far away from other attractions like Nanjing Road and The Bund. However, in Chengdu, strip malls and shopping centers were just a 5-minute walk away from local fruit vendors and other small restaurants. It will be interesting to see if the gap between the working class and middle class/upper class will close as China’s economy improves or if it will be a case of the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer.

Each city offered a different perspective on China and different industries as well. In Shanghai, we learned about tourism, pharmaceuticals, steel, and chemical companies. This alone was such a diverse company group, but it further underlines the melting pot aspect of China. Not only does that description apply to the people, but also to the business sectors in the country. Beijing provided insight into healthcare, real estate, and retail. It was intriguing to learn the parallels between our two countries, but as well note the struggles China is facing and their approach to fixing these issues. On the retail front we were able to compare and contrast the differences between their competition and expansion of the online market and websites like Ali Baba.

Shenzhen was manufacturing heaven and provided a different perspective on factories than the Foxconn horror stories. Again, because not all factories operate the same way it was interesting to note the differences between various factories. All factories had dormitories for the workers, they were provided with lunch breaks on site, and overall stable work conditions. I was most interested in learning which positions were of most influence and importance in the factory. Just as with Bao Steel, it was so cool to see the products being made right before our eyes. Hong Kong provided my favorite visit, which was to Li & Fung. They are quite literally a powerhouse. With a dedication to quality in all of their endeavors, they are basically unstoppable. Every time I reflect on that visit, all I can say is that they are involved with every company! If you name any kind of store, Li & Fung will be a part of it in some way. It is remarkable how diverse their company is,, especially in comparison to DOW, which seemed like it would be the most diverse company we visited in the beginning of our course. They were the most inspiring and a company I look forward to following and maybe potentially working for one day.

Personally, I grew a great deal on this trip. I awoke my travelling bug and realized how much I enjoyed seeing the world. Some of the tourist stops were breathtaking, and if the views didn’t leave you in awe then the historical significance definitely would. Thinking about the work and the mindset that people had in that time period to build the Great Wall, the Daoist temple, Summer Palace and etc. is mind boggling to me. It made me reflect on my purpose and leaving an impact on society. I learned that I love my independence, pushing myself, reflection as well as planning for the future, and most importantly – coffee. I was able to step out of my comfort zone and experience China at the age of 21, which is an opportunity I will be grateful for forever. I stepped out of my bubble in America, and realized there is a whole world of opportunity and growth awaiting me. This trip and class were better than I could have ever imagined. It has left me inspired not only for the future of China, but my future as well. I can’t wait to see where we both go next!

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On my honor, as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment.

Chelsea Williams

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Market Insight in China Reflection Essay: Unique Experience of a Life Time

For as long as I could remember, I have always wanted to travel to China. As someone who grew up in the urban capital of Ethiopia, I have always been interested in traveling as well as learning other cultures around the world, to have an international business mindset. Education has been my way to freedom and the limitless opportunities available to anyone is the main reason why I chose to move to America. Certainly, I was fortunate enough to travel to China for three weeks. This opportunity gave me a chance to travel to Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. I am grateful that this class exposed me to different learning opportunities since it was my first time traveling in Asia. In fact, it has increased my knowledge about how to do business in China. This study abroad program has affected my future outlook and changed my perspective. Hearing about China from people’s past experiences, my interest and curiosity to experience China first-hand increased tremendously. In fact, this program has enhanced my global understanding about the markets in China, its economy, the way people live, the culture, their rich history, their food, and language. Thus, taking the weekly classes at McIntire before leaving to study abroad gave me a brief outlook towards China, but I learned more about their way of living through the real experience.

As I found myself walking in the busy streets of Shanghai, China, I encountered how much the language barrier was going to affect me during my stay. Thus, we had to use hand gestures, symbols, and pictures to communicate with most of the locals. Next time I travel back to China I will make sure to know how to order food, ask how much something costs, how to ask where to get a cab or where the main street is, and also how to tell the cab driver to drop me off exactly at the door instead of a street corner. Additionally, while exploring each city, I noticed how every city had its own characteristics. For instance, Shanghai is the city that never sleeps with all the people, light, and skyscrapers it was pretty similar to New York City while Beijing is the city with rich history from the Great Wall to the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and so on which are incredible tourist attractions. Thus, in Chengdu, we tried the hot pot for the first time and visited a Panda breeding research center which was really exciting. Shenzhen is the city with many manufacturing’s, but have less people and looks well organized and less crowded. Hong Kong was kind of unique than the other cities. From people walking and driving on the left side of the road to the really narrow streets, HK nightlife, diverse people, and skyscrapers makes the city a bit more westernized since it was a British colony. Therefore similar to Shanghai, HK also reminded me much of NYC because of the trendy and modern vibe of the city.

Regarding to companies, Li & Fung having its headquarters in HK reflects the city’s personality because HK is a fashion forward city and Li & Fung being one of the worlds leading supply chain and brand management company for major designers in the world, matches perfectly with the city. In fact, Li & Fung was one of my favorite companies we visited due to their working environment and company culture. They strive to improve customers shopping experience by innovating and enhancing their technologies to reduce time in the fitting room. For instance, they showed us how they use a high-tech machine to read the item on the rack so it would visually fit the cloth on you by illustrating the image of the clothing on your body without even you trying it on, making it easier for their consumers.

Another company that impressed me was KinYat, a company 4Moms work with to produce their high quality goods. They produce products that are innovative and unique such as the IRobot, rockaRoo (infant seats), toys, etc. As for quality assurance, they perform an experiment on their products for at least 2 months and collect the information from the data to make sure that everything works before their next step. The workers seemed a lot more efficient and consistent with their job, contributing to the company’s success. The most important cultural insight I gained was from out visit to Shanghai Disneyland. The presenter shared some of the struggles they encountered while entering the Chinese market where they had to really understand the Chinese culture to adapt to the Chinese consumer. Thus, Shanghai Disneyland had to change its strategy which was illustrated by a very interesting and catchy quote, “Authentically Disney, Distinctly Chinese.” On the other hand, during our strategy class in Fall semester at McIntire, we learned how Walmart in China failed at first when entering the Chinese large market due to the lack of market insight. Now Walmart sells fresh fishes, frogs, squid, pig meat, and so on to appeal the Chinese consumer making the company much more successful than its first attempt to enter the market.

Although the Chinese labor cost has been increasing since the past few years, my takeaway from the Superl and Li & Fung presentation was how China is still one of the leading manufacturing and politically stable country in the world especially when it comes to doing business in China. For this reason, most companies have chosen to stay in China although there are countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam with a lower labor cost and stable work force. This insight gave me a good perspective when it comes to China. Also, I witnessed how more U.S. companies and others choose China not only because of its political stability, but it’s workers are good at what they do and highly effective when they do their jobs.

Over all, I have acquired new levels of knowledge, skills to understand one’s culture, and have abilities that will best prepare me for my future career. This trip has broaden my horizon and exposed my curiosity about the markets in China. Due to this trip, I have gained a better understanding of how the world works around me and how everything is really connected to one another. It was more interesting to see how the culture difference played a huge role for a company to be successful overseas. Also, I was surprised by how much it was different compared to the American culture such as tip/no tip. On top of that, the language has a lot of tone involved so it was really difficult at times to determine if people were actually having a peaceful conversation or yelling at each other. Ultimately, throughout this experience, I became aware of how the world has a lot to offer and that I should travel more for personal pleasure as well as to see first-hand how business is done in different countries. In fact, I will definitely continue to travel and change my perspective so I could have a global understanding of the economy in general.

Word Court: 1196

On my honor, I have neither given nor received help on this assignment.

Meley Gebregziabher

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Success drivers for business in China and other foreign markets – Conrad Tindall

Conrad Tindall

June 8th, 2015

Market Insights in China

Reflection Essay

I pledge on my word and honor that I neither gave nor received any aid on this examination.

This past month has been a period for reflection on international commerce. After seeing its great cities, there is no doubt that China will play an increasingly large role in the future global economy. As business between China and the United States becomes more complex, it is becoming increasingly necessary to understand how these two nations work together to drive the global marketplace. In my travels to over six cities in China I have gained a better understanding of foreign markets and how businesses succeed within these markets. Throughout this essay I draw from my field notes to reflect on common themes and build frameworks for analyzing success drivers for business in the Chinese market, as well as generalize success drivers for companies attempting to enter into other foreign markets. All of the companies we visited have been tremendously successful within the Chinese market. Therefore, when answering the question “what drives success?” I looked for commonalities between all of these companies. During our company visits and cultural excursions I noticed the following common themes for business: the importance of collecting and synthesizing information, the importance of applying these insights to influence business models and product mixes, and the importance of developing the infrastructure to integrate the consumer’s and the business’s culture.

Gathering customer information and extracting insights doesn’t have to be a complex process. Even the merchants of the Silk Market in Beijing, who track transaction on pencil and paper and handle exchanges in cash, have methods of gathering customer information. As shoppers go from store-to-store, the merchants communicate with neighboring shops to profile customers before they even step foot in their store, they test different price-points on the customers, and they track which items are most popular. This information system, although primitive, allows the merchants to increase their profits.

However, it wasn’t until our last company visit to L&F (Li & Fung) in Hong Kong, when I witnessed their “CatLook” software tracking customer movements throughout the store, that it really hit me just how powerful information is for business. The “CatLook” software would track what products you were looking at and, from this information, determine your product preferences. When the software is introduced into stores and implemented, it will use this information to show you products you are naturally drawn to (on such devices as the CatLook Delay Mirror) and induce a purchase, thus increasing the firm’s profits.Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 3.14.38 PM

After speaking with my professor, Professor Maxham, about how L&F uses superior information systems to operate in multiple markets, I began to realize that the ability to gather customer information, synthesize it, and use it to customize your business model to the customer is critical for any company trying to enter a new market. Every customer segment is different, a lesson I learned as I strolled through the shops of Xining. During this walk, I noticed a contrast between the way Chinese and American consumers shop. Chinese consumers spent much longer inspecting the product, even if they didn’t intend on purchasing. Although a minute piece of information, in an increasingly digital age, information like this is critical for business. For instance, if L&F did not have a foundational understanding of its different customer segments, the longer inspection period for Chinese consumers would have caused L&F’s “CatLook” software to incorrectly interpret inspection as an expression of interest. Even with the most sophisticated software, a thorough understanding of the customer must be built into the business model.

In addition to customizing its business model, a firm attempting to enter into a new market must adjust its product mix to fit the new culture as well. In Shanghai, Allergan accomplished this by thoroughly researching their target market, an act that led them to discover the importance Chinese consumers placed on appearance, allowing Allergan to introduce one of their most successful products: Botox. The merchants of the Silk Market in Beijing accomplished this by showcasing American luxury brands, which the American consumer recognized and were drawn to. Disney Resort of Shanghai accomplished this by integrating Chinese food into the Disney experience, an act that improved the resort experience for more traditional Chinese guests (such as parents and grandparents). However, Disney also made an interesting customization to their product. It introduced a western-style castle to the resort, indicating that some elements of an entering firm’s home culture could be desirable to the new consumers.

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The Disney Resort of Shanghai case is unique, as the product attempts to integrate and mix both American and Chinese cultures. As we toured larger-scale companies, such as L&F, I noticed a similar tendency for a more “blended” culture – one that was a mixture of Chinese and American. With this blending of cultures the firm, in a sense, was more “international.”

During my stay in China I saw varying degrees of this “international” theme. While visiting the manufacturing facilities of Shenzhen, operated by nearly hundreds of Chinese workers, I saw a very weak integration of cultures. The only American influence seeming to be the design specifications for American products. However, I also saw a very strong integration of Chinese and American cultures at L&F, where they encouraged diversity and actively employed a culturally diverse workforce. By building cultural diversity into their workforce, L&F created a management team that is very flexible and able to adapt to meet the needs of varying customers (as exemplified by their diverse customers base, both in markets and product-scope).

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One interesting characteristic I noticed among many of the companies was the presence of multiple expatriates and the varying roles they played between companies. At the manufacturing facilities of Shenzhen, the expatriates usually played an oversight role. The level of interaction between the expatriates and the Chinese workers was low, with the expatriates usually communicating through the managers of the factory. As we walked through the facilities of SuperL, there was an overwhelming sense “us and them.” Seemingly as a result, there were no cultural connections between the workers and the products (unlike at L&F, where pride in product is high). However, the Disney expatriate’s primary role was communicating between Disney upper-level management and Chinese stakeholders, allowing Disney to successfully navigate a different legal system. And at L&F, the expatriate employees were responsible for working with a diverse range of customers one-on-one and determine what they needed. The expatriates at L&F all seemed to be high-level managers, and were a critical factor in blending the cultures of the company and the customer.

If my reflection so far shows us anything it’s that L&F is the gold standard for what an international firm is. It, no doubt, takes a long time to build the infrastructure necessary to become an international firm, but if our company visits have showed us anything it is that the international firms are most able to care for their customers and therefore succeed in an increasingly global marketplace. I realize that one of the keys for L&F achieving the status of an “international firm” was the resources it invested into developing its employees. Every year L&F sends many of its most promising managers to MIT and Stanford, two institutions that attract students from across the globe, to take classes in business. My hypothesis is that, after taking these classes and being exposed to diverse teams, the employees began to approach business from a much more global perspective. This, in combination with L&F’s diverse workforce, likely helped L&F integrate their corporate culture with their customer’s culture, allowing them to provide superior service to clients all across the globe.

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The common thread that ties these three themes together is the importance of putting the customer at the heart of your business. After visiting dozens of businesses in China, I can’t help but think back to Mt. Qingcheng in Chengdu. I recall hearing how thousands of years ago the people of Chengdu built the great damn in Mt. Qingcheng to help regulate the river flow to help agriculture. The project was painstaking, and took hundreds of years, but in completing this project the people of Chengdu structured their operations to better fit the environment around them. Since this project, Chengdu has prospered and has been know as “the land of the plenty” for centuries. If companies are to prosper in new markets, they to must build the organizational infrastructure necessary to operate within a new business environment. In a broad sense, first, they must establish mechanisms for collecting and interpreting customer data, even if it is just informal and simple information, like the workers of the Silk Market simply observing shoppers. Next, the company must apply the insights they gain towards changing their product and their business model, as Disney did by integrating food into the experience, so as to better serve the new customers. Finally, they must develop the infrastructure necessary to integrate the cultures of their original business unit and the culture of the customers, just as L&F did by developing its managers,  to offer the best customer experience possible.

Essay Word Count = 1496

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China Reflective Essay

Before going to China, I barely imagined what I was about to experience. Of course, I knew Eastern cultures would be miles away from what we see in our daily life, but actually living 3 weeks in China and immersing yourself in the culture has no comparison to whatever I previously thought it would be like. I will explore how I perceived this culture and how it changed my views. In addition, I will talk about the economic and political environment in China, which is very interesting due to China’s position in the world and the role of the Government in it. Finally, I mention Hong Kong, which is a phenomenon of its own, making it interesting to compare it to China.

The only thing I expected about Chinese culture in general is that it would be very weird for us foreigners. That’s why I tried to be as impartial as I could with everything I experienced. The first important aspect of the culture was the food. This is something that I was looking forward to because I’ve always loved food, but I used to only eat selected varieties. Since I came to college that changed 180 degrees and now I’ve tried everything that young me wouldn’t because now I appreciate the taste and properties of food. It became very real when we hit the street markets, filled with snakes, lamb balls, all sort of insects, etc. I was determined to try snake, and when I was holding it I felt exactly how I felt the first time I tried a broccoli. However, once I ate it, I can totally understand how people could eat it. At the end of it, it’s just meat. The hot pot was more of a challenge, but definitely doable. Furthermore, the fact that spicy is actually good for you and that Chinese believe that eating an animal organ will help yours, made it very culturally rewarding.

The other thing I wanted to experience about Chinese culture is their behavior. Psychology is a passion of mine and I wanted to see their interactions and actions. My first thought is that China is much more of a group culture rather than an individualistic one. One example is how much they follow trends such as “selfie sticks” in such a massive scale. What I mean with this I that you see people acting as a group rather than an individual, which is the case in western cultures like the US. Furthermore, I experienced that they were much more direct when they were talking, something that contrasts with western culture, where people tend to be more protective of what they say because it could hurt what others think of you. This means people are in general very open and nice with everyone, something that is also very common in Central and South America. This adds up to a very casual conversation with anyone you meet, even if it is an important executive at a company.

The way they communicate is something that most of us found very funny. Sometimes it looked like they were screaming to each other, but that’s just the way their accents work. When they speak English, they normally say everything in present tense because they don’t have conjugations in mandarin. Looking back, I regret not having learned at least some basic mandarin before because it would have added so much to the trip. The last cultural aspect that intrigued me was their spirituality. While the religions are completely different, the intensity of the devotion in China was very similar to what I have seen in Central and South America with Catholicism. In both places people touch and pray to each saint/deity statue they see and give offerings through different ways.

Knowing that China has been growing in double digits for decades and that they are a global force nowadays, it was very interesting to learn about the Chinese economy and experience it firsthand. One of the main themes I had read about is the size of the construction industry. In every city we visited it was impressive to see how many buildings were being built as we walked in the streets. Even more fascinating was confirming the existence of “ghost towns”. As we took the high-speed train from Shanghai to Beijing, I saw numerous cities with numerous identical buildings and buildings in progress where I didn’t see any sign of civilization. This in my opinion is very dangerous because it artificially inflates the GDP and can create a condition for a housing bubble due to the shortage of demand. As with multiple industries in China, we don’t know where this is heading because it is highly coordinated by the state.

Other than that the real state industry, the rest of the infrastructure in every city we went to looks absolutely perfect. From the high speed trains to the subway stations, the transportation services we used are definitely 1st world quality and I would even dare to say that they are better to what I have seen in NYC or Washington DC metro systems or the Amtrak rail system. This is extremely important because you can clearly see that there is a rampant increase of demand for these services. The shanghai train station was completely filled and the flights we took from Beijing to Chengdu and Chengdu to Shenzhen were big planes at full capacity that in the US are only used to fly from major hubs to major hubs at long distances (e.g., Washington DC to Los Angeles). There is not an economic problem like the housing one because the increasing use of these services allows the government to recover the investment.

Going off of Mainland China, I wanted to reflect on Hong Kong and what I learned. Hong Kong is only 1 hour away in bus from China, but the culture in each place is completely different. In Hong Kong, you can clearly see that people tend to lean towards western practices and very much identify themselves as such. Therefore, you will experience amenities such as a much more developed service economy than China. For instance, people are much more attentive to your needs, which you can see from how they take care of you at a restaurant, making sure everything is fine very often. Also, I perceived that people are much more educated when I was going on a taxi to the junk boat, where the taxi driver spoke perfect English and told us about his life, Hong Kong culture, etc., things that never happened to me in China. This confirmed what Shivin had told me about how advanced education was there.

For a country of their size, it’s impressive to see how important they are on the global economy. Li & Fung demonstrates that major companies want to be in Hong Kong, which makes sense because it provides a strategic position in Asia, a western culture, and the ability to do business with the rest of the world with absolute freedom. Moreover, I was really impressed that the Hong Kong port is among the top 3 ports of the world, making Hong Kong one of the main commercial countries in the world. On another note, I’m very eager to know how the relationship with China develops, since they countries have very different economies and cultures. You can also clearly see that Hong Kong craves independence from the protests earlier this year, which of course where caused by Beijing imposing rules to Hong Kong’s political system. In my opinion, Hong Kong is a miniature-sized version of what China ought to be in the future because China is definitely still developing.

In overall, this was an unforgettable trip that helped me be able to relate to a completely different culture and understand the Chinese people in a better way. One of the things that have defined me as a person through my life is relating to people regardless of their background, and that’s why this trip adds so much to my life. Furthermore, now I have a better overview of the Chinese economy and how Chinese people do business, allowing me to look further east as I explore options after college.

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Final Thoughts on China

China and America are very similar on the account that both rose to prominence due to manufacturing. It was important to see the comparison between America and China during our trip because it allowed me to understand China a bit better than if I had not, and furthermore, to recognize that we truly are in a global society. As stated, Chinese manufacturing scale is what put it on the map; however, as Jonathan Wortzel and Jeffrey Towson relayed in The 1 Hour China Book, urbanization is the crux of China’s growth. From urbanization follows the rise of Chinese consumers, brainpower behemoth, money, and the Chinese internet. Similarly, one might say that American consumers, brainpower, money, and the internet are its greatest attributes. Thus, when someone says that China is going to take over the world, I believe them because China is in the very same position America was nearly a century ago – in the land of opportunity and growth.

As we went on a multitude of manufacturing company visits, time and time again I realized that marketing is a key factor in the success of any business and in sustaining a rising consumer base. One only has to look as far as luxury brands, such as Prada, Michael Kors, and Tory Burch. Somehow Prada cultivated a brand where a classic handbag has a two thousand dollar economic value with an actual value of only a fraction of that cost. What shocked me was the prevalence of luxury brands on the streets of Shanghai and Beijing. It seemed like on every corner I saw a Gucci or Fendi or Chanel. Knowing that these products are more expensive in China than America, I really could not fathom why Chinese consumers would shop at these brands enough so that there was a store on every several blocks. But this I believe demonstrates the strength of the Chinese consumer, highlighting their desire to use brands as a status symbol, which will subsequently lead to more consumption and a more service oriented economy as the middle class grows. In addition, I learned that women continue to buy luxury brand bags in an economic downturn, most recent example being in 2008, which speaks even more to the importance of creating a brand that remains stable with oscillating economic situations and cultivates consumer loyalty.

It’s easy to be loyal to a brand that is constantly innovating, specifically in the technology space, however. We mustn’t ignore the fact that these innovate solutions are generated by China’s brain behemoth. For example, Ting-Ting Zhang, who works in Li and Fung’s Sourcing department and took us around during our company visit, is clearly a driving force in creativity and efficiency in her corporation. Many people of high brainpower are graduating from top tier universities and rising through the ranks securing managerial positions at companies like Li and Fung. Although Li and Fung isn’t a brand that most recognize, it is a brand that has many recognizable clients, and provides innovative technological solutions for these popular brands like Wal-Mart. One such example is the mirror where consumers can try on a store’s clothes and accessories without the hassle of going into the changing room. It was suggested by a Li and Fung manager that this technological solution might possibly increase the sales of male shoppers. Another example is the device that scans a rack to see which products are present and should be present. Having worked in retail at Anthropologie, I know how beneficial it would be to sale associates in removing items that belong on another rack and moving items in inventory to its proper rack. Thus, Li and Fung’s solutions both increases sales and decreases costs, which is due to operational efficiency, and in turn increases the client’s bottom line.

China’s bottom line is ever increasing. I saw numerous international brands in my time in China, but it is apparent that much of China’s economic growth can be credited to the state of China. BaoSteel’s positive economic effect on China’s economy is one example. The millions of tonnes of steel being produced, which is soon to outrun every other steel company in the world, convinced me of China’s efficiency and just being able to get the job done. Truly this is the staple of China’s growing economy – they just get the work done without looking back. A manager at one of the manufacturing companies said that Chinese workers would do anything for overtime work, while workers in the Philippines valued time off to spend time with family and relax. The culture of China from the top guy at BaoSteel to the manufacturing worker who glues on the heel of a pump is to work, work, work. With a population of over a billion people and a deterministic culture, it is easy to see China as the global economic leader someday in the near future. The opportunity for China is just too vast, most interestingly for me in real estate. On our visit to a Super8 Hotel, it was said that there are over eight hundred properties in China spanning all of the provinces of China. The kicker is that they have so much more opportunity for growth. This visit also solidified my interest in working in private equity real estate because of the complicated, diverse nature of the work. Working for a multinational private equity firm in say Hong Kong would be amazing because whether you look at geography, population, or economy, China is big and it’s only going to get bigger.

The internet is surely an area that is making China even bigger from the likes of Alibaba and Baidu. The internet is one of the economic drivers that I will try to keep track of for I think that it is one of the areas where Chinese companies have a significant competitive advantage in China and might outpace American companies if they tap China’s population resource. Also, for me the internet is interesting because I would like to work in technology when I graduate, so the implications of Chinese companies extending their hands more into the West could be an exciting spectacle to witness in my professional career.

Being an appreciator of urban and environmental planning and general environmental issues, I am hard pressed to be critical of China, even with its bright future. After learning that the average pollution level in Beijing is about five times the critical level in America, I was concerned about the health of the Chinese, and subsequently, the world. Also, construction of cities creates another element of pollution. As China gets bigger, it has to mitigate these environmental effects. I have hope that China will do this and find creative architectural and engineer designs. With urbanization comes responsibility. China cannot afford to make the mistakes that Europe and North America made after their industrialization. I also want China to make its cities more clean so that I can one day live in Hong Kong for some period of time. Hong Kong is the perfect mix of China and the West, and in many ways is the crystallization of urbanization, consumption, brainpower, money, and the internet. All I know is that I want to be a part of China’s growth in some way.

 

On my honor I have neither given nor received help on this assignment.

Word Count: 1212

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