A NEW NORMAL back in the States!!
It’s been 5 weeks since returning from Beijing and I think my body has finally adjusted! My first trip to Asia was certainly exciting, eye opening, physically challenging and educationally fulfilling. Upon arriving in Beijing I was overwhelmed with the size of the airport (and lack of people?) and it’s modern features. I couldn’t help thinking how busy and exciting the facility must have been during the Olympics of 2008. The lack of people did not last long however. The traffic and density of the buildings started just outside the airport and seemed to grow as we moved toward the center of the city and our hotel.
The hotel was in an amazing location, just a few minutes’ walk from the Forbidden City and many upscale store fronts (so much for cheap deals! That would have to come later.) My first morning started with a 3 mile run around and through the Forbidden City with Rich and Linda (thanks for taking it easy on me) followed by more formal tours of the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. That was followed by visits to a Kung Fu show, many interesting and sometimes tasty/terrifying lunches and dinners as well as an amazing visit to the Great Wall. The cultural experiences of China were truly once in a life time and it really gives you a great perspective on just how much the Chinese people have endured throughout time. Change has been ever present in China and we just happen to be witness to the newest chapter in a long story of social and business triumphs and tragedies for this nation.
From a business and educational standpoint, our trip provided me with a new perspective on what is and will be a formidable nation for many years to come. The commitment to math, science and technology was brought up many times by several of our speakers and the fruits of that commitment could be seen all around Beijing. From the sky scrapers and architecturally stunning buildings, to the impressive business parks surrounding the Lenovo headquarters and the Microsoft complex the city was booming with new business. While clearly the communist government was in full control of this growth it was also interesting to see what a struggle it must be at times to maintain the control of central government with so many business and entrepreneurs looking to stake their claim in what looks like a modern day Wild West!
The highlight of the trip for me was Mr. Joerg Wuttke from BASF. Not only was he a captivating speaker, but it was clear he had an immense library of knowledge on China and Asia as a whole. He was candid about the business and political environment for not just BASF, but for any business trying to enter or operate within China. It was evident right from the beginning why he was stationed in Beijing and interestingly both Adam and I saw him on the BBC news the following day meeting with the German Chancellor upon her arrival at the Beijing airport. Mr. Wuttke gave us great perspective about where China was in her economic growth cycle, as well as the positions of the EU, U.S.A and the world economy. While the current cycle is in their favor, they too have much to work on, just like the U.S. and Europe and it is clear that we all depend deeply on each other’s success.
This trip was a great end to the 1st year of what has been a tough and fulfilling MBA program. It solidified for me what a great group of people I am sharing this experience with and just how much I am learning from my new friends as well as the classes and programs we are sharing together.