Our last night in China

It’s our last night in China, and we’re all hanging out in the lobby of our hotel, reminiscing about the experiences we’ve had during the last two weeks. What an adventure! This trip has been life-changing.

Our group got a small gift for Dr. Rasheed to thank him for all he has done for us during the trip.

Another long and event-filled day is gone, and in less than 6 hours we will begin our journey back home.

Today began with a lesson on opportunities and challenges for multinationals, focusing on the keys to conducting business in China and government influence in business dealings. Our presenter, Mr. Kai-Fu Lee is a China UTA EMBA student. His range of experience includes working for the Ministry of Finance, China Unicom (state-owned enterprise), and Citigroup.

Mr. Lee provided a variety of information regarding business conduct and governance of city versus rural residents.

Interesting facts:
1. Rural residents are not subject to taxation.
2. Purchasing an iPhone in China is equivalent to one month’s salary for most residents.
3. Approximately half of a Chinese person’s life savings will be spent on his or her last 20 days in the hospital.
4. The 900 million rural residents will gradually move to cities and take jobs in manufacturing and IT at a projected rate of 20-30 million per year.
5. As has been stressed throughout our EMBA program, relationships are required at all levels, as the culture is built on trust, “face”, and mutual respect.

After the lecture, we were free to explore. Most of the group headed back to the silk market for last-minute gifts. Comical comments by some of the market employees regarding our negotiating abilities: “Why you so tough lady?! … I make no money at your offer prices!”

Afterward, some headed back to the hotel to pack while the others fit in some sightseeing at the Palace of Heaven. The architecture was beautiful: bright blue glazed tiles painted with glittering gold dragons was a visual feast made complete by lush, green landscaping, and tree-dotted paths.

The Palace of Heaven was spectacular.

Afterward, we took the subway back to the hotel (easy to navigate and inexpensive) and then hit the pavement again to have dinner and check out the sites on the nearby pedestrian walk.

One of the side streets held a hidden gem that held what I feel displays the spirit of Beijing…crowds of people shopping, chatting, sharing street food, and enjoying the comfort of constant activity.

Last-minute shopping and bargaining in the market.

Portable shopping sustenance on display in the market.

At last, we all reconvened back at the hotel for one last hurrah and to face the dreaded task of packing.

To say it was an amazing trip is an understatement. Homeward bound we go to share our knowledge, apply it to our careers, and hug our loved ones who have supported is through this journey. :)

In the morning we head to the airport to return to Texas!

The Great Wall

Today, after having breakfast, we departed the hotel at 8 a.m. to go to the Great Wall of China. What a fascinating place! We rode a cable gondola to the top of the wall (pretty scary, but fun!) and could not believe the incredible views. To get down from the Wall, we rode a long slide (even more fun than the ride up!). I can say for sure we all had a wonderful time. After this experience, it’s easy to see why the Great Wall is one of the Seven Wonders of the World!

The views from the top of the Great Wall were spectacular. And look at all the magnificent colors of the autumn leaves!

We reached the top of the Wall!

Pausing for a quick photo in the shopping area at the base of the Wall.

Even the view from the cable gondolas was breathtaking!

Boarding the slide for the ride down from the Wall.

We enjoyed a fresh, delicious lunch after our excursion.

At the base of the Wall, artisans strung pearl and jade necklaces to sell to visitors.

Tuesday tours of Baidu, Ogilvy & Mather, and Walmart

Our day started aboard our bus, fondly dubbed “The UTA Express,” bound for Baidu, China’s largest Internet search provider.

After a briefing on the history of the company, Kaiser Kuo, director of international affairs for Baidu, provided demonstrations of the provider’s capabilities and applications. An articulate, educated metal band rocker from Arizona, Kaiser has a laid back, pretense-free approach to explaining Baidu’s background and capabilities.

The company has been quite successful, and prides itself on its mapping capabilities, strong mobile application platform, and voice recognition software.

Though Baidu’s power compared to “the big G” is questionable, it has certainly made an impact on China and has aims to capture higher market penetration at home and abroad.

After lunch, we walked to Ogilvy & Mather Public Relations where we met Nicholas Manganaro, an associate director specializing in investor relations.

UTA EMBA students Shannon Soland, Khalid Amiri, Mark Vernon, Amber Curry, and Nicole Galloway at Ogilvy & Mather Beijing offices.

A small and growing sector of PR, investor relations focuses on providing financial services for publicly and privately traded companies, IPO candidates, financial institutions, institutional investors, state-owned enterprises, and sovereign wealth funds.

Pertaining to the China market, the biggest challenge is how to crack the professional services “code” in China. Specifically, Ogilvy must address what product mix will meet domestic Chinese companies’ outbound needs.

We stopped at Walmart next, where the staff greeted us with a warm welcome of cheers and applause.

Baker Jiang, a China UTA EMBA alumnus, flew to Beijing to present to our class.

Walmart opened its first store in China in 1996 and now has 402 stores in 150 cities throughout the country. The mission in China remains the same as that in the United States: Save Money. Live Better.

Walmart China places particular emphasis on providing the best prices and quality for staple items such as rice, oil, pork, and eggs. In addition, to meet the needs of the local consumer, the company has established several regional offices that procure specialized items from local vendors.

Looking forward, Walmart recognizes the challenges of the rising e-commerce trend facing retailers, and has purchased a popular website similar to eBay that will address the e-commerce need and prepare for the future.

At the end of the presentation, Christina Chin and Dr. Abdul Rasheed presented Baker with a “Distinguished Alumnus” award for his accomplishments and continued commitment to UT Arlington.

Afterward, we met Baker, Jimmy (our Nestle guide), and as a surprise, Dr. Jerry Song, for dinner. We enjoyed another fun and food-filled evening to end a long day. Tomorrow we visit The Great Wall!

Dr. Rasheed and Dr. Song toast the EMBA students and program.

A visit to the Nestle Company in Tianjin

Monday, Oct. 21, our day began sooner than usual. We had to be ready to leave the hotel by 7 a.m. to drive to Tianjin, a large city with a population of more than 13 million, located north of Beijing. In addition to the Nestle company, which we visited today, a few other companies, such as Coca-Cola and Motorola, are present in Tianjin. In 2011, Tianjin had the highest GDP in China with $13,393, followed by Shanghai and Beijing.

The Nestlé factory welcomed us with so many delicious treats, like ice cream and wafers. Like most companies around the world, Nestle had some issues with profitability in 2009; however, almost every year since they have continued growing positively. Nestlé competes with many other small local companies. One of their strategies is to buy the local businesses and try to maintain the identity, culture, and value of the company for a better result of the acquisition. Nestlé also created different products and packages to fit their target market’s requests and tastes, such as Green Tea flavored wafers.

Because the cost of labor in China is going up 10% annually, Nestle’s future plan is to make their processes more automated to decrease the production costs.

After visiting the factory, we drove back to Beijing to visit the CEO and Chairman of the Greater China Region for Nestle, Roland Decorvet.

Roland is originally from Switzerland and has been working for Nestle for almost 20 years. Nestlé’s goal is to produce food for local people from local resources; therefore, most products are being purchased from local farmers, like milk. Nestle even built a university to teach local farmers how to be farm better and be more resourceful, all fully funded by Nestle.

Identity, culture, and value is important to the Nestle company. For instance, almost two years ago Nestle bought a local company in China named Yinulu, a company with $1.5 million annual revenue. This company creates products for Chinese tastes, like peanut milk, which is just one example of a company listening to its customers and making products that suit the target market.

Seventy percent of Nestle products doesn’t have Nestle’s brand on the packaging. Nestlé likes to keep the names and brands of the products the same after mergers and acquisitions, as consumers are familiar with those products. Currently, Nestle has 33 factories in China.

After our visit with Nestle, we drove back to our hotel to get ready for our group dinner at Roast Duck restaurant. Yum!

Beijing—Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City

Our first full day in Beijing started with a gift: a 9:30 a.m. wakeup time. Sleeping in was magical!

Tiananmen Square was our first destination. An enormous flower sculpture adorned the area in celebration of the Chinese National Holiday.

The place was packed! Imagine Six Flags or Disney World on the busiest day of the season–now triple the crowd volume.

From there, we walked to the Forbidden City. Our tour guide, Ben, told us several interesting facts about this walled city, including its 9,999 rooms and the division into three sections for political affairs, social events, and living quarters. Other things we learned about the Forbidden City: the concubines were divided into a three-tiered system and eunuchs were used to transport the concubines to the Emperor’s quarters each evening.

The size, architecture, and history of the city were incredible, yet I was struck by an overwhelming sense of isolation. It was difficult to imagine that so many lived and died within the walls without ever seeing the outside world.

Afterward, we had lunch at the Crown Plaza (I’m now addicted to green tea ice cream and dim sum) then boarded the bus for the Silk Market to bargain for more goodies.

From there, we went to a karaoke bar for dinner and singing with the local UTA alumni. It was a blast! We mingled with the alumni, danced, and sang like pop stars.

Amber Curry and Khalid Amiri

Amber Curry

The evening ended early in preparation for the next day’s trip to Nestle.

Onward to Beijing!

Saturday, Oct. 19 we all had breakfast at the hotel and boarded our bus that would take us back to Shanghai from Suzhou. We all got to the airport excited about the next leg of our trip in Beijing.

Some of us decided to eat lunch in the airport. We found it interesting that we had to pay first before getting our food. The food was great (surprising for an airport!). The only down side was when we all figured out these poor crabs are still alive.

A few hours later we landed in Beijing. Most of us decided to go to an English Pub across from our hotel to have dinner. I don’t think I have seen all of us so happy since we got here! Great food that tasted just like the food back home. Most of us got back to our rooms early to get ready for a long day tomorrow.

Suzhou Industrial Park

Today, we hopped back onto the bus, bound for Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). The SIP is a product of cooperation betweenthe governments of Singapore and China to create a comprehensive, globally competitive, high-tech park for business development.

After a tour of the museum, we were escorted to the observation tower for a birds-eye view of the park. The view was impressive, compounded by the magnitude of the progress made in 20 years to transform the once vast farmland into the hub of industry it is today. According to Dr. Rasheed, chair, UTA Department of Management, the park has grown tremendouslysince his last visit in 2007.

Our next stop was Black and Decker. The conference room was every handyman’s dream: the entire back wall of the room was covered in power tools.

The plant manager gave a brief yet detailed presentation followed by a tour. Multiple stations dotted the shop floor with numerous workers assigned to specific tasks in the manufacturing chain.

After the tour, the afternoon was free to roam the busy shopping district behind the hotel. Exchanging money at a local bank was definitely an interesting endeavor. The teller counted the money five times, handed the money to a co-worker for a second round of counting, then counted the cash again before finally handing it over.

Once we finally had Yen in hand, we explored the shopping district, where we bargained for a new suitcase, socks, and shoes, and even found a Dairy Queen for a taste of home.

UTA EMBA students Nicole Galloway, Teresa Hebert, and Niusha Daem shopping in Suzhou.

Next stop: Beijing!!!

Shanghai to Suzhou

This morning we checked out of our hotel in Shanghai and drove to Suzhou. Almost 3 hours later we arrived at our hotel in Suzhou (Marco Polo) and quickly headed to the Crown Plaza for lunch. The food and the view were amazing!

After lunch we visited Emerson Climate Technologies, a company that specializes in manufacturing and sales of climate technologies and tools, storage, process management, network power, and industrial automation. However, air conditioning is their main product.

As of 2012 they had more than 16,000 employees and $3.8 billion in sales. Emerson is present in Latin America, Europe, theMiddle East, Asia, United States, and Canada. In 1991 China was producing 13% of the sales in Asia specific and as of 2012 that number has increased to over 50%. The company’s future plan is to continue growing and innovating new products as quickly as possible due to rapid technological growth.

Later in the afternoon, we drove to Zhouzhuang, a town about 30 minutes from Suzhou. The mayor of the town provided us with information, history, and his plan to create a “smart or high-tech” town of the future.

We were all invited to have dinner with the mayor and his guests. The food was delicious! After dinner we went for a tour of Village Water Market, a place so beautiful and almost unreal. Because we all had a very long day, most of us slept in the bus on the way back to our hotel. We’re resting for more adventures tomorrow!

Lessons in Chinese economics

Yesterday we had two stops on the agenda. The first was at Tonji University, which was founded in 1907 by German physicians and the Chinese government as a medical school. It was eventually expanded to include engineering, arts and law.

Shannon Soland and Chris Thomas walking to campus.

UTA EMBA students Denise McPherson, Teresa Hebert and Nicole Galloway pause for a photo with Mao Tse-tung.

After a tour of the school’s museum, we attended a class on the China economy as part of our Asian Business Certificate requirements. We discussed China’s growth and the key theme of reform required to manage it (called “Liconomics”) as well as the effects of a globalized economy on the U.S. and China.

Our next stop was at Super Brand Mall, which contains retail shopping, event spaces and Lotus, a high-end grocery store similar to Central Market.

Lotus and Super Brand are sister companies under the CP Group umbrella, which started in Thailand as an agricultural development and animal husbandry leader. The company has expanded into automotive, pharmaceutical and telecommunication industries as well.

After a lively presentation and video from the CPOs of Lotus and Super Brand, we toured the mall and the Lotus market.

UTA EMBA students Shannon Soland, Khalid Amiri, John Zamaites and Ray Rodriguez exploring the groceries available in Lotus.

Afterward, we had the afternoon free to explore, relax and prepare for our next journey to Suzhou.

Exploring China

The entire UTA EMBA group paused for a photo near a statue of Mao Tse-tung in a lovely plaza.