I must say, I now have a new image of China that is nearly the opposite of the vision in my head prior to the week long stay in Beijing. I had this image that there would be military police on every corner, that Americana's were looked down on by the Chinese and that the country was way behind today's modern western culture. I found that what I experienced was just the opposite. The only two things I found to be accurate was the amount of pollution and the personal expectation that I wouldn't like the food. I didn't observe many military or police on the streets and I truly was impressed by how friendly the people were to all of us. One of the defining moments for me was when we were at the pearl store and the young clerk told me that she was only 21 years of age and that it is her dream to one day go to America. Her face glowed with a huge smile and her eyes widened when she spoke about her future plans to visit the big city in New York: Manhattan. At that point, I realized she wasn't the first person to ask for a picture or just wave to all of us and that the Chinese people do admire the people of the United States; Lady Gaga is the #1 most request artist in China! I left China thinking how fortunate I am to have grown up in the U.S. and that the Chinese people want the same things we all want; a better quality of life.
I found the trip to be very educational on every level. I learned not only about the culture of the country, but also about international business in general: what to expect from the local government, challenges faced by foreign companies, how important "guanxi" is to a successful business and gained an overall sense of the business environment. I recall some of the remarks from Joerg Wuttke, BASF Chemical Company, "that you should always verify the statistical data coming from the Chinese government". I appreciate his level of honesty and after we left his office I thought about the fact that he gave us some information that we may not have been able to learn about from any other source. If anyone is going to open a new business and be successful in this fast developing country, you need to have accurate data to make projections, budgets and sales quotas. Wuttke's presentation really clarified the difference between a political economy and a market economy on many levels.
The "Great Wall" was one of the most rewarding historical places to visit for me personally. When you think about the number of people who were forced to help build the wall, the number of those that never returned home and the stories of loved ones filled with sadness because their beloved never returned back to them, it brings so many things about life into perspective and how lucky we are to have the freedoms we have here at home. This Chinese landmark that's nearly 7000 miles long ( per the professor), represents so much about the old style of the communist government and the history of the country.
I can't end my blog with out mentioning about how people drive in China. I can tell you I shall not complain about NYC drivers or Connecticut drivers anytime in the near future. I am not sure that they have any traffic laws because it appeared to me they have an everyone for themselves policy and if you get in the way that's too bad. It would not be pretty if I had to drive in Beijing and I am sure the car would "not" be dent free for very long. I must say that the bus driver did an outstanding job and I hope he earns more than the .86 cents per hour minimal wage because he deserves it!
I did enjoy the international studies professionally and personally. I am confident saying I would never have visited China and now that I have I am ready to go back and visit other areas across the country. The culture experience and learning experience is something I will never forget and remember for many years to come.