From Corporations to National Culture, Seminar Yields China Insights

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Selena Lee and Brad Pesavento, both MBA 14 in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program, share their experiences from the Seminar in International Business, which this year journeyed to China.

Selena: “I was interested in China because it is one of the largest developing markets right now in the world with the fastest growing GDP in today’s economy. The itinerary brought us to two coastal cities of Shanghai and Beijing. Shanghai encompasses both western modernization in its French architectures as well as old eastern traditions. It is truly a city where east meets west.

“In contrast, Beijing is the proud capital of China where the country’s 5000 years of history is apparent everywhere. These two cities let us see firsthand how modern China has become over the last few decades.

“I was also happy that Taiwan was part of the itinerary since it has certainly played an important role in helping China to develop to where it is today. Given my own ancestry roots of being Taiwanese, I thoroughly enjoyed the company visits to better understand today’s Taiwanese business environment. Going to both China and Taiwan helped me to really compare and contrast the business and legal environments of both places.”

Brad: “I am fascinated with the growth and emergence of China as the second largest economy in the world. Secondarily, the course appealed to me since I have never traveled to Asia before and it presented a unique opportunity to experience the region not only from an economic, but from a cultural and historical perspective as well, which are crucial to understanding how China got to where it is today and where it is heading.

“Although I have many friends and coworkers from China and Taiwan and knew a little about the history and culture, I felt I had to experience it firsthand to have a deeper grasp. The rich traditions and cultural heritage still have a powerful impact on society in China today, even as the country is undergoing tremendous changes. Professor Zaloom’s inclusion of Taiwan strengthened my overall understanding of the region and Taiwan’s importance to both China and to its major trading partners, the US and Japan.

“My biggest takeaways were the contrasts everywhere: Western values and influences vs. Chinese tradition and society; the modernization of the cities and the increase in wealth of the younger generations vs. the older ways of the rural and senior populations; the growth of individual freedom via the internet vs. government controls; and a tremendous sense of optimism and hope, now lacking in the United States, yet tempered with concern about the sustainability of progress and the impact modernization is having on their environment.

“Over and over again, from numerous individuals we heard a cautionary tone that things can’t continue growing as fast as they have been without an economic and societal, perhaps even political, correction and adjustment. Several of our hosts indicated that things are expected to dramatically change in the next 3-5 years, and that the government is preparing to manage any possible crisis. The best analogy we heard is that similar economic corrections have happened in the past to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and the Chinese government is heeding those lessons. One can only wait and see; hopefully whatever changes occur will be peaceful.

“A major highlight for me was our visit to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Again, a study in contrasts between the old empire and the current Communist (but changing) government. The Square had many of the elements of the new China: merchants selling snacks and souvenirs, tour groups filtering past giant LCD screens, and prosperous visitors from all over China. We were in Beijing during a particularly smoggy summer week, and saw firsthand record-level pollution, so the sustainability issue was right in front of our faces and in our lungs. Fortunately, our last day was clear and we were able to see all the way to the mountains, a beautiful sight. I managed to make my way to the top of one of the tallest buildings in the city right next to our hotel, and get some panoramic views of the capital under a sunny sky.”

Photos: Brad Pesavento

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