Doing Business in World Regions Trip Journal

This blog chronicles the daily adventures from a recent Doing Business in World Regions course trip. 

Written from the perspective of Janet Amador,
Associate Director of Global Programs




Day Nine:

We were all excited to have the opportunity to visit the Shanghai Stock Exchange in the morning. Professor Zhang had an acquaintance-one of her past students-who worked at the exchange agree to give us a tour. The stock exchange in Shanghai is quite young, having celebrated its’ 20th year in 2010. By December 2011 there were 1,691 listed securities. There are shares that are limited to the domestic investors, and shares that are available to foreign and domestic investors. Also the gold market opened in China while we were there. In 2011 the turnover on the SSE was over 45 billion RMB.

Yuan GardensAfter this, our group was allowed some downtime to do whatever they wanted (for most, downtime meant more shopping!) Then it was on to the Yuan Gardens. These gardens were established during the Ming Dynasty (around 1500). In order for us to reach the garden we had to walk over a bridge that zig-zagged across a large pond. We found out that the Chinese believed that since ghosts can only follow a straight path, that it was much wiser to build a bridge that would prevent the ghost from reaching its destination. The gardens were amazing, the only problem was that within these confined walls there was no breeze and the heat and humidity was just overwhelming. We finished the tour and headed to dinner.

After our dinner we had the final activity for the trip, an evening boat ride on the Huangpu river. A spectacular way to end, the lights, the moon and the skyline were quite breathtaking. The students stood on the deck and spent a good deal of time taking pictures of their trip-mates, and reminisced about our time together. After the boat tour, many elongated the night, while those of us who were leaving the next morning went back to the hotel to pack.


Day Eight:

Previous to our departure to Shanghai, we had been told to anticipate a more hot and humid climate, and as we stepped out of the airport we realized that this was true. As we drove closer to the city we saw the differences immediately between Beijing and Shanghai. This city was a mixture of old European architecture mixed with very modern skyscrapers. There is a flare to this city.

Pearl TowerAfter settling at the hotel we went out to the Pearl Tower, an amazing skyscraper that sits at the edge of the Huangpu River. Many of the students went up the elevator to see the view, while others decided that the height was a bit too much and went to the Shanghai History Museum situated under the tower. We were stunned at the intricate detail of this underground exhibit. We all mentioned that it reminded us of the Disney ride Pirates of the Caribbean, the large displays with life size models showing life in Shanghai were very impressive. A little bit of shopping in the local mall and we were ready for our next stop.

Through Professor Zhang, we had the honor and privilege to meet with Dean of the School of Management at Tongji University. Along with the Dean we met Masters and Doctoral students, who then toured us around the campus. After our very warm tour we were happy to join them for a wonderful dinner. The cuisine here is lighter, a bit less salty with a greater number of fish dishes, we were all very pleased. The evening was a great cultural exchange for all. 

Day Seven:

We started the day with a lesson in Tai Chi, “meditation in motion” a wonderful way to start the morning. We were given six different moves to practice. Our leader was very patient as we first learned the arm movements, then the legs and then put them together, in what we hoped looked like and effortless  glide across the courtyard.  Here we were, 20 students from the Bay Area, standing in a courtyard in China, that was surrounded by an almost retreat like atmosphere in the morning warmth doing Tai Chi, it couldn’t get any better. 

Our lecture this morning was with Dr. Marina Zhang. Dr. Zhang is a management consultant, coach, public speaker with experience in training around industrial and cultural contexts. She consults on technological innovation, entrepreneurship and managing cross cultures. She gave us some tips on cross-cultural behavior and communications. 

She asked us to list the cultural differences, either or good bad that we had observed since arriving in China. We then went through a very long list and discussed each one and how our observation related to our perception and the reality in China.   We had further discussion with points including:

  • In all things in life are in the honeymoon stage. Moving to China is no different, things work for a bit, then you realize that the systems are starting to fall apart.
  • In many cases a foreigner will arrive in China, will see that customs values and rules are different, and because they can’t assimilate they leave. Due to that experience they have difficulty explaining their experience in China to their home crowd, and in the process they learn more about themselves and the culture that they have left.
  • Culture=set of norms and values that define the behaviors and thinking pattern of a group of people, that is around 90% of the population. Don’t use outliers to stereotype the people.
  • Who we are is determined by where we are from. We owe a lot to parents and patronage. 
  • Democracy and freedom is essential, it is a basic right.
  • In China we are given limited choices, in democracy we are entitled to choices…if that is challenged our life goes upside down.
  • China is a collective society. What group you are in is very important, there are no differences between personal and public space.
  • In western society it is usually to have about three feet of space between bodies. In Japan and China , the space is much closer, due to a different concept of space. (This we experienced!)

After this lecture we had an amazing walk through the summer palace gardens. Additional beauty appeared in a late afternoon breeze, it couldn’t have been more comfortable. The Summer Palace was the home of the Empress during the summer, the gardens and lake are bigger than the Forbidden City. Absolutely breathtaking.

Our evening was completed with a dinner at the home of a local Chinese family. Professor Zhang, Vicky and I went to the home of a faculty member of the Physics Department at the University. We had a student translator present in the group, an exchange student from Colorado who had been in China for only 2 weeks, and the wife and mother of the Physics professor. It was such an honor to be hosted in a home andallowed us to get a small glimpse of family life. We were fed like royalty. Truly a unique and poignant addition to this program.


Day Six:

The Great Wall of ChinaThe sun was attempting to shine this morning but unfortunately the smog was too thick. As we distanced ourselves from the city the air cleared a little bit so that we could see the hills. The ride from Beijing to the Great Wall was about 1.5 hours.

We were given a bit of history as we were driven to the Wall. The wall is 4000 miles long and was built in 221 B.C. during the Qing dynasty. The Emperor had a difficult time finding workers to build the wall because it was so dangerous. So the emperor had all of the prisoners released to build the wall. Whether they were robbers or murderers they were sent to build the wall, many died in the process, those that lived were required to live and be guards. They never returned home.  The towers seen on the wall were either used for food storage for the guards or for a communication system which allowed signals to the Emperor to be lit along the way.

Stairs on the way up to the Great Wall of ChinaThe mist of the humidity became thicker, when we exited the bus the atmosphere was quite uncomfortable. There were two ways to ascend the mountain, a 5-minute gondola ride or a walk up the stairs. I of course chose the stairs. I do remember getting to the top of the path that gets you on to the wall, but the exertion and the sweat required to do it was really more than I had expected. The stairs were, well, straight up. But once we had caught our breadth and had some water we started to walk the steps and paths of the wall. There were points where we would enter a gate tower that was cool and had a breeze wafting through that was heavenly. So my group, Yumi, Jonathan, Lori and our adopted friend Henry (South African MBA student) explored and got took many pictures. The whole experience was surreal.

There were three ways of getting down from the wall, walking, the gondola or a toboggan ride. To be honest, by this time I had a bit of heat/sun exhaustion and there was no way I was going to walk, and the toboggan ride looked about as secure as ride waiting for a disaster (no helmets) so Lori and I took the gondola ride down. It was great, a little rickety, but we made it safely. A good number of our folks took the toboggan and all enjoyed the ride.

We then had lunch and headed off to a fruit picking farm. A couple of the students bought some peaches. The air was so thick at this point that it was almost impossible to breath. We all returned to the bus, and most of the group slept on the way back to the hotel. After a rest and clean up everyone was out again for some evening activity. 

Another wonderful day. 

Day Five:

The sun was shining this morning, it was truly a treat to have the blue sky, less traffic and the opportunity to see the landscape of the city and hills in the distance (okay, Dorothy they are hills!) We headed back to the university for some more lectures.

Our first lecture was from Li Wan, the Director of Government Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility at Cummins in China. Her background has included time with other American companies including a stay in Wisconsin--I wonder how she enjoyed their winters? She stated that her role is becoming increasingly important as China and the US create more and more trade opportunities. Her role acts as a bridge between the two countries, understanding the political and cultural landscape as American and Chinese companies create business opportunities in both countries.

She brought up the following points:

  • China has 34 provinces which include autonomous regions and municipalities.
  • Challenges include: aging of the population, environment and energy scarcity, economic structure upgrade and globalization.
  • There is a social pressure for the 25+ year old-marriage and families are coming later than the previous generation as the pressure for earning and professional advancement is high.
  • Women are equal in the workplace in China, there is no wage discrimination.
  • The US and China relations are analogous to having two children, they love each other and then there are those days when they can’t be in the same sandbox together.
  • It is difficult to find for the Chinese company going into the US and vice versa the talent that can speak the language, understand the culture and have the middle management capabilities.
  • Guanxi (paying respect, foundation for relationship, basis for doing business, gaining trust, essential for testing the compatibility in a relationship) “does not make everything happen in China.”

Our next lecture was from Lucy Qian, a Business-Government Relations specialist, and owner of a consulting company that specializes in communications and consulting strategic counsel and services to various MNC (multinational company).

  • She spent a good deal of time helping us to understand the structure of the Chinese government, the expanse of ministries and its departments.
  • The Politburo which has nine members makes all of the decisions for the country.
  • This is the Harmonious period in Chinese history; an opportunity to bring more social stability to the country and close the gap between the rich and the poor.
  • This is a high context culture, speeches usually have “empty messages” you have to be an insider to understand what is really happening.
  • Government has less interest and control over consumerism, more importantly they want to control ideology.

Associate Dean, Lee Zhang gave us a spirited lecture about Marketing in China. He spent his time at Ohio State for his Ph.D., and now teaches at the university. Points that he made included:

  • Our market is not a free market, it is now a transition economy.
  • A huge difference between the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai and the smaller cities in terms of population, economic development, and consumer behavior.
  • Marketing is short term oriented.
  • Money in the pocket or in the bank is new to the Chinese, they don’t quite know what to do with it.
  • They don’t want to invest in innovation.
  • People who have made money want to spend money on guanxi, the opportunity to stay connected with those in power--preferably government officials who will make life easier for them.

He then took us through a couple of case studies about American companies that had great products but had bad experiences coming into China because they had not done the appropriate research. He reiterated that the government was really not as concerned about consumerism-–more money is good, but that the media and the use of media to advertise those products is always under scrutiny.

As the day was coming to a close we had the opportunity to go to the Summer Palace. Since the weather was beautiful and there was a breeze, this was really a wonderful way to end the day. The Summer Palace is the residence where the emperor stayed for the 3 summer months. The area of the palace is bigger than the Forbidden City, which is daunting, but it was the amazing beauty of the palace, the lake, trees and promenade that offered us a peaceful and serene experience.

We are heading to the Great Wall in an hour.

Day Four:

Beijing University Welcomes SMCOne of the student's, Lori made a summary statement of today's talks and visits, she said it was like walking into a cathedral and having all four of the big stained glass windows with sun shinning through them, have all of the colors and shapes collide in the middle. A beautiful and chaotic picture that in some ways summarizes the amazing day we had.

The morning started again with rain, but the air was cool so no one was complaining. We headed off to the university again for 2 lectures, our group picture, lunch and then on to our 2 company visits. So starting from the beginning let us go through each stained glass window (continuing the metaphor!)

Lecture 1. We would hear from Jack Perkowski, the founder of JFP Holdings in China. He told us about how he had worked on Wall Street for many years but in the late 80's early 90's he decided to identify a trend, and then "get a head of the trend." With much research, many trips, and of course his social network, he decided that China was the next burgeoning market to follow.  He then detailed his journey as one of the first foreigners to enter the Chinese market economy when it wasn't a market economy! Since there is so much information that he shared with us, here are some of the highlights:

  • He knew that companies needed access to capital management and technology.
  • He picked the automotive industry and launched ASIMCO Technology in 1994, a automotive components company.
  • in 1999 1 million Chinese had cars, by 2012, 18.5 million had cars, anticipated growth is to 40 million by 2020 which will account for more than half of the car production worldwide, estimated to be 75 million.
  • To understand the Chinese way of doing business he visited 100 factories in 40 cities in 9 months.
  • Key to success, building a strong local management team, people who knew the language and more importantly people who could understand the culture.  
  • The company grew to 12,000 employees, and had 20-25% of the market share for diesel engine parts when it was sold in 2008 to Bain for $600 million.
  • Due to Jack's entrepreneurial spirit and his outstanding ability to manage this Chinese company, he won the "Best Entrepreneur in China" for the last 30 years. 
  • Jack took all of his investment banking experience and management experience and has founded a private equity firm in China helping to raise capital for companies.
  • He has also written a book called "Managing the Dragon, How I Built a Billion Dollar Business.

His lecture was inspiring, our group was transfixed by his story. The students were very excited to ask more questions and to have some individual time with him at the end.  By the time the lecture was over I realized I had written 6 pages of notes, I am glad that Tamara suggested that I bullet the high points otherwise this blog would be too long!

Lecture 2. We had the team of Ian Stone and Patrick Powers, again experts that have been living in China for over 25 years. Ian has over 30 years of executive management experience with a variety of industries, he is called in to save companies in need of rescue when they have not done their due diligence in China.  Patrick has been in China for 18 years and Southeast Asia for a total of 25 years. His expertise is international commerce, government relations, and trade policy.

The two of them did a short but intense presentation on all of the mistakes that foreigners make when they enter the Chinese market.  Here are some of the points that they covered:

  • The only way an investor can enter China with some guarded success is if they done a great job of planning and preparation.  If you don't plan well you will have about an 80% chance of failure.
  • The network is very important, relationships are essential. Being here and getting introductions to those in the position to assist is essential to success.
  • The foreigner must be willing to adapt, and must understand that there must be many points of information to make decisions.
  • The most difficult pieces about coming in and opening a business include: human resources and training, administrative licensing (there is no fast track) and communication (what is the real story.)
  • There is rapid change, pace of reform, too fast to make good decisions.
  • They both summarized the experience of coming into China in this manner
    • We cannot know everything
    • We don't know what we don't know
    • What we measured was incomplete and it's now in the past
    • Everything is changing at the same time.  GOOD LUCK!

They were also very generous with their time for questions and of course the students pulled through with questions that followed from the previous talk...After our group picture and lunch we ventured off to our first company visit.

Ogilvy and Mather Company, worldwide public relations and marketing company. We had the pleasure of meeting with Scott Kronick, the President of the China division of this leading multinational company. Mr. Kronick has been in China for 20 years, coming from Michigan. When he arrived here, Ogilvy had ten employees, he now manages 1000 in the Beijing office and 3000 in China total.

He stressed that to be successful in China, one must:

  • Understand the fabric of the nation.
  • Be a part of the community so that there is a greater understanding of the people.
  • Brand is not successful until you have been successful in a local market.
  • That the assumption, “Our way is the best way is not the best assumption.”
  • It is about how “you fit in to what they need” that drives success.
  • There are many regulations, censorship and government entities that we are not familiar with in the west that can quickly change business plans if you don’t do your due diligence.

He was positive about the possibilities that abound in China, but also very real about the effort that it takes to have the relationships and to understand the customer.

The last visit of the day was to an NGO, a non-profit called the Immigrant Women’s Club. This center was set up to reach out to immigrant workers who were coming to Beijing to find work. The center reaches out to give assistance and resources for new the immigrant workers from the farm areas in China. The soul of this program comes from the workers who have been through the services and are now mentors to those who are new to the Center.

  • They offer assistance, resources and opportunities for women.
  • They also offer protection for the immigrant workers rights.
  • They offer talent development.
  • Self-help group and book reading club.
  • They feel that they are planting the seed for these women so that they can grow and help others.
  • Their goal is to develop leaders in women so that they can bring that leadership back to their communities in the rural areas.

Our group was taken with the passion and mission of this non-profit, and we talked at length with them about how they were able to sustain this center without any government funding or assistance. The rule in China is if you don’t have licensing by the government then you may not receive private donations. Tara McCann and Judy Sandico led a private donation from the students that was very appreciated by the center director.

Our conversation continued on our bus ride as Professor Zhang led us through a discussion regarding the complexities of this country and the political boundaries. There was some consensus that the disabled and disenfranchised of this country really had very little help from the government. By the time we had finished with this day we were all quite spent from all of the information and mental energy that was circulating throughout the day. Such an exciting trip!

It is now Saturday morning and the sun is shining!!! This is great news since tomorrow we get to go to the Great Wall...more to follow.

Day Three:

Today started off with rain, we thought this would be a welcome addition to the trip, maybe it would clear out the smog/haze that is hanging around the city, so far that hasn't happened.

Our first event was back at Beijing University, a lecture from Professor Feng Lu, Vice Dean of the National School of Development at the University and Director of China Macroeconomics Research Center. He is often asked for advise on economic matters as China progresses through it's growing stages. The discussion was "Chinese Economic Development and Current Economic Policies." Professor Lu gave us an overview of the growing pains that China has been experiencing, he talked about their real estate market challenges, the disparity between the rich and poor and the unqualified work force in some of the manufacturing areas. The students were impressive with the questions that they posed to Professor Lu, in fact he mentioned to Professor Zhang that he was very impressed by the depth of the questions asked and the lively conversation that ensued after his talk. Go Gaels!

We then had the opportunity to have lunch with another group of MBA students from USB in Cape Town, South Africa. Our groups were then integrated and we shared buses as we went off to Capital Steel Company. We were given a talk by a senior manager in charge of Corporate Culture. The steel company, at one point employed over 180,000 people, and is the 4th largest steel company in China. Due to pollution and the expansion of Beijing, the company and many of it's workers are moving to the seaside.  We had a guarded conversation with the gentleman, the environment and the answers that were given reminded us all of the propaganda days of China. For all of us, it was a reality check that some of the old ideology of China is still alive and well.

After our visit we had a real treat, we were taken to an acrobatic show in town. All I can say is ouch!  The moves that these boys and girls (it was difficult to tell their age) were able to do were jaw dropping. From plate spinning, amazing strength moves, having 12 girls riding on one bicycle, and the eight motorcyclists riding in a large hamster ball were all amazing. This is not a profession for those that are not flexible and I would even venture to say pliable!

This evening a group of us went with Professor Zhang to a dumpling restaurant for dinner, this was the best meal so far. We would not have been able to do this speaking English only since their menus had no pictures or English subtitles. Professor Zhang continues to test us on the few phrases of Chinese that we have learned, on a daily basis. I think that the shoppers have been practicing the most-deals have been happening at the local markets.

So the evening ended with cake. Due to the fact that there is a bakery nearby with beautiful cakes, it was decided that we needed to have cake and ice cream this evening. I have to thank Lauren, Tara, Judy, and the other ladies who helped to organize this fun social in the hotel lounge.

Tomorrow we are back at the University for more lectures and two company visits in the afternoon. Talk to you then!

Day Two:

Temple of HeavenAs I sit here and think about all of the activities that were compacted into this 12-hour adventure, I am just stunned at the breadth and depth of our experience. Let me start from the beginning.

This morning we were driven to the Beijing University (aka Peking University) campus. The University is a comprehensive national university, having been ranked as the number one university in China.  The population of the school is around 35,000. The original buildings were part of the Summer Palace and the campus is known as Yan Yuan or the gardens of Yan. It is probably the most beautiful, and tranquil campus setting ever imagined. The "NoName" Lake which is on the campus, is named appropriately because mere words can not describe it's true beauty. BiMBA or Beijing International MBA program, the host of our program is located in a serene garden area with ancient architecture and pristine gardens. Truly a remarkable setting.

The mornings agenda included three lectures given by Mr. Tony Liu, Research Associate, and  Director of International Programs. His talks were: Introduction to China, History and it's Impact on current Chinese People and finally Confucianism and Business Practices in China. Mr. Liu had us captivated for three hours, the participants of the program were energized and involved in lively discussions as we learned more and more about this ancient and progressive culture. Some of the key points that were made included:

  • China is surrounded by natural barriers, that fact led in many ways to the ancient/and somewhat recent belief that China was the center of the world.
  • Beijing has a history that dates back 6000 years.
  • The Central, Eastern and Southern Regions of China account for 85% of the GDP and 60% of the population.
  • The Han make up 91.9% of the ethnic population of China and 55 other ethnic groups make up the rest.  In many cases a citizen of Beijing traveling to another province could encounter another dialect that they will not understand.
  • Economic growth comes from cheap labor, reduced institutional cost (better at production), and learning and quality improvement.
  • The planned economy of old is not efficient, embracing market economy.
  • By the mid 1980's there were a few cars, now there are 5 million.
  • There are 1 billion mobile phone users-largest in world.
  • He also gave a comprehensive view of the Axial period and the Three Empires (2200 BC to 1924).

Mr. Liu, who has written a book called "Confucianism and Business Practices in China"  took us through some of the key points in Confucianism which play such an integral role in the mindset of the Chinese culture and thus plays a key part in the business decisions. He discussed Li-Propriety, Ren-Perfect Virtue, Zhongyong-Golden Means, and Junzi-Gentleman, Superior Man. Mr. Liu discussed the importance of balance, "to go beyond is as wrong as it is to fall short." Everything is relative, not in absolute terms, leave some room for ambiguity, chaos is acceptable. He said that the Chinese are now more accepting of entering into contractual business relationships, that there is less expectation that they can make changes after the contract has been created. Professor Zhang and I were very fortunate to receive a copy of his book and the students were pleased to get a copy of his presentation and his email for further conversation. As he was departing, he was voiced his excitement about the beginning of a long relationship between Saint Mary's College and Beijing University.

We left the campus and went to the Forbidden City. We spent about two hours walking what was probably half of the 200 plus acres of grounds. This vast City was built between 1406 and 1420 and was used until 1924. At this point I would say that pictures are worth a thousand words, it is impossible to summarize the experience. The buildings are dressed in red and yellow, red for good luck and yellow for the loyal family. There are 9,999 buildings surrounded by the ten meter wall that surrounds the grounds. It is an absolute must to see in China. We again, attracted many onlookers as we were the foreigners. Many of the students had their picture taken with the locals, while others took videos of us just standing and talking.

Our next experience was a visit to the Hutong. The word originates from the Mongolian language and it means passages or waterways. The area is a community of tiny, narrow alleys lined with courtyard houses. Each courtyard consists of four houses (one level) that surround a small courtyard which in some cases holds a garden. The Hutong has been in existence for over 700 years and the homes were passed down from generation to generation. During Mao's rule, he wanted to rid the city of it's past, so much of the Hutong was destroyed, luckily that practice stopped and there are still a few streets of courtyard homes still in tact. The tours are done by pedicab (which was a welcome change from having walked around the Forbidden City) the government now employees pedicab drivers to tour this area. We also had a tour guide who showed us specific residences and gave us the opportunity to meet some of the local residents. A real treat!

We filed back to the bus around 6pm and headed for shopping! The students were very keyed up to be let loose in the Silk Market, five stories of indoor shopping stalls with sales people all ready to bargain. Due to some major traffic jams it took us a lot longer to get there than expected. One note on traffic, as I have been given the honor of being in the passenger seat of this 20-seat van, I have come to realize that the Chinese driver and the Italian driver must be related!  In just the two days that we have been here I have already learned to close my eyes and just pray that we are going to make it through the intersection. I don't suggest walking across streets here unless you have a partial death wish. But back to the Silk Market. The entire group was ready to sprint out of the van. Professor Zhang and I took a fast cursory look, and decided the hotel was a much wiser place to be. We added the Beijing metro as the next part of our adventure, which was inexpensive and very efficient. Luckily we didn't need a "pusher" to get us onto the train, by then it was 8:15 and the bulk of the commuter traffic was done.

Back to the hotel and getting ready for tomorrow. We will continue with our lectures at the university, have a tour of the campus, go to a company visit and then off to see an acrobatic show.

Day One:

Peking Duck RestaurantWe are at the end of our first full day in Beijing, China. The transition from sunny cool Bay Area to the mild heat and humid air of Beijing was apparent as we exited the airplane on Monday, but we really felt the effect of the temperature change as we ventured outside. Adding to this change was the very thick smog layer that covers the city. Think of the fog in San Francisco on one of those cold summer days; that is about the thickness of the smog that blankets this great city.

On Monday evening our group was treated to an amazing dinner at the most famous Peking Duck restaurant in China.  Professor Zhang said that they annual revenue was about 80 million dollars, and that they served over 2 million ducks a year.  Professor Zhang had pre-ordered the meal, we even had the opportunity to meet the head chef. The dinner was amazing, the tastes, and variety were beyond our expectations and our tired bodies! By the last course I think most of us were just looking forward to our hotel room. 

In a much more revitalized state we started today at the Capital Museum, a six story building dedicated to the history of Beijing.  We had the opportunity to see amazing artifacts dating back to the first dynasty in 224 B.C. Porcelain, cinnabar, screen paintings, ceramic pillows, jade, and other beautiful pieces were all available for us to enjoy. After our visit we met with Roy, our official tour guide from Beijing University.  Roy, whose English is excellent, spent some time on our 45 minute bus ride to the Temple of Heaven, describing some of the idiosyncrasies of Beijing.  Here are some interesting bits of trivia about the city.

  • Beijing has 20 million people and 5 million cars.
  • We think there are parking issues in the Bay Area, the addition of cars has come so quickly that an adequate number of parking garages have not been built to meet the demand. They have estimated that if they had to add enough parking spaces for all of the cars in the city, it would equate to the size of 3000 soccer fields (not football!).
  • Due to the traffic in the city-which is quite heavy, only cars with certain license plates are allowed to drive on specific days.  For example, only cars with license plates that end in 2 and 5 can drive on Mondays.  =If you are caught driving by one of the road cameras then you are ticketed.
  • To regulate the purchase of a new car only people who have proof that they have lived in Beijing for at least 5 years may get a car, and it is a one car per family limit.
  • The casual reference given to a Caucasian is "big nose" since we generally have bigger noses than Asians.
  • The older population that lives in Beijing is much less likely to speak English, if they attended school in their youth, they learned Russian.  This of course follows the political history of the country.
  • Before 1979 foreigners were not able to come to China as tourists. While at the Beijing Zoo yesterday, Jenna Lambert, Lauren Leonard, Tara McCann felt like they were one of the attractions, many of the locals wanted to have their picture taken with them, and even had the ladies hold their babies for pictures! I think this was a very surprising moment.
  • For those that went to the zoo, one of the greatest attractions was seeing the panda bears. 
  • Roy also showed us how to show on our fingers how to count from 6 to 10. We found out that if used our fingers to show a number as we do in the states, that it would be misinterpreted by the shopkeepers. We are practicing for our shopping trips!
  • There are 55 ethnic groups in China, the majority ethnic group at this time is the Han population.

This afternoon we went to the beautiful Temple of Heaven, which was built in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty (the last dynasty was the Qing Dynasty). We learned that the building which is circular represented heaven and that the surrounding plaza which is square represented earth. The buildings were designed so that the architecture represented the lucky numbers 3,6,and 9. For example there are 3 tiers to the temple, there are 9 steps in each of the 3 landings etc. The building combines Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, as Roy said all three of these Gods "get along together" so they could create a temple that honored all three of the religions. Roy also mentioned that in China there is a great separation between the government and religion.

This evening we had the honor of meeting Mr. Tony Liu, Director of the Beijing International MBA program and his Program Manager Becky Zhang, they introduced the academic program to the students and highlighted the learning outcomes for our trip. We agreed that this is the beginning of a wonderful relationship for both Saint Mary's College and Beijing University.

Tomorrow we will have lectures at the university and then on to the Forbidden City.