Xiujian “Jerry” Chen (in purple shirt), visiting assistant professor in the School of Management, led a class trip to China in August, which included a visit to a Bayer facility.
SOM students get first-hand lesson in Chinese business culture
September 23, 2011Tweet
Last spring, some School of Management students learned how business is conducted in the world’s largest emerging market. However, during a recent two-week stretch, the same group of students saw their classroom lessons play out in real time.
Xiujian “Jerry” Chen, a visiting assistant professor in SOM, took a group of 14 students to China in August, a trip that served as the culmination of his course “Doing Business in China: An Emerging Market or a Modern Country in the Making.” The trip - with stays in Beijing, Tianjin, and Xi’an - included visits to companies such as Bayer and Hewlett-Packard, where students had the opportunity to network with American and German expatriates serving in top-level management roles, and learn about the importance of the Chinese market in their global strategies.
In addition, Chen wanted students to get a macroeconomic perspective, seeing what China has done right in the last three decades. He said China has grown tremendously, and many people have been lifted out of poverty. However, because about 200 million people live with limited resources, maintaining a 10-percent annual growth rate is a priority for China. With all the success it has achieved, the nation has a number of economic challenges to deal with in the coming years.
“Low-cost labor doesn’t exist in China anymore, because the labor cost increases by 20 percent every year,” Chen said. “Chinese consumers want western brand names. And, even though these products are made in China, they’re more expensive in China than in the United States. Also, China needs its own brand names. More patents need to be developed, and that will lead to a more sophisticated economy.”
In the Beijing markets, students had a difficult time shopping, Chen said, because they had to acclimate themselves with local customs as well as weed out counterfeit goods.
“They were driven crazy by all of that,” Chen said. “The students want a more predictable shopping experience. They had to constantly validate whether the products they were shopping for were authentic, and had a hard time trusting what they were buying.” He said the fast-growing counterfeit economy in China shows that intellectual property protection still has a long way to go.
Melissa Wolkis, who graduated from SOM in May with a master’s degree in accounting, said she learned a great deal during the trip.
“I had always heard about a developing country in classes or in the news, but I didn’t fully understand what this meant until I visited China,” Wolkis said. “Because of this, I have a completely different perspective on business operations in China, in the U.S., and in the world. I would like to travel to other emerging markets because of my experience on this trip.”
“The culture in China is very different from anything I had ever seen, and I thought it was eye-opening to see the level of poverty that was so prevalent throughout the country,” says Jessica Kikel, a graduate student in accounting from Northport, N.Y. “I know I personally came home with a greater appreciation for what I have here in America.”
Daniel Harris, an accounting student from Staten Island, said he found the meals to be the most enjoyable and educational part of the China trip.
“Lunch and dinner were served at round tables, where everyone can easily interact in the conversation,” Harris said. “One night, we ate dinner at a local family’s residence. Sitting down and eating at their home, in their natural environment, hearing their stories, and seeing how they live, was the most valuable experience for me.”
Chen said that he plans to take SOM students to China again next summer, and the trip will include time in Shanghai, the commercial and financial center of China.