Cory Barron, Student Services Manager at Washington University – St. Louis’ Olin Business School, traveled with an Executive MBA group to China earlier this month. His detailed day-by-day recap of their travel experience and his wonderful pictures offer a window into the cultural and educational experience we just had to share!
Day 1 – China
Muted blue skies, ideal June temperatures, and a light crowd greeted our group at the Great Wall of China. Many in the class expressed that they “never dreamed” of having the opportunity to visit this historical site. The 5,000 mile long defense against a Mongolian invasion eventually failed, but delivered a morning of intense climbs to gorgeous vistas of the Chinese dragon snaking atop the mountain contours.
By mid-afternoon, the group was exploring the vastness of the Forbidden City. Over 8,000 rooms housed, in addition to the royal family, the palace guards, eunuchs and hundreds of concubines. Up until 1911, this was reclusive home of the Emperors of China for hundreds of years.
Day 2 – China
After weaving through the morning traffic, our group made it to the northwest reaches of Beijing to tour Cummins Motors. This is the ground work for the business challenge discussion they would have with Miguel Kindler, Cummins-Beijing Plant Manager. After Miguel’s short briefing on the plant’s capacity and Cummins 40 year history in China, each study team was given a question with one common challenge facing multinationals entering the Chinese market. The teams had 30 minutes to come up with a solution and then present that solution to Miguel for his evaluation.
After Team 4’s victorious Cummin’s challenge question presentation, we traveled to Beijing’s Embassy District. Walking through the six inch thick doors of the outer walls of the United States Embassy, we passed security before entering the grounds. A panel of three officers, representing some of the 21 government agencies housed at the Beijing Embassy, explained how they are serving United States business interests in China.
Day 3 & 4 – Shanghai Getaway
Whistling by the Chinese countryside, our group traveled on a high speed train to Shanghai from Beijing. It was the first time most had experienced such a smooth ride on the rails, yet at 180 mph.
Once at our new hotel in Shanghai, and possibly a short nap, it was back to the bus for a two mile trip to the Huangpu River pier. Once there, we boarded a cruise boat for a water level perspective of China’s Economic miracle. It’s a nightly proclamation that China has arrived. Dozens and dozens of buildings along the river’s edge and within the financial district, come to life as millions of lights dance, creating moving pictures and cascading messages. One welcomed us to Shanghai along the entire vertical reach of the city’s new 120 story building.
Wednesday, our group stayed at their Marriott City Centre Hotel for a series of speakers discussing Chinese business culture. Liang Wang told her story of starting an eCommerce business delivering high-end bakery goods. This in a country where few people bake and fewer like Western sweets. With the use of innovation and quality products, Pantry’s Best has grown from two employees to over 300 in its first seven years.
Guofeng Pan, Senior Expert at McKinsey & Company, laid out China’s growth potential. Highlighting the government’s 30 year plan, Pan unveiled China’s strategy to increase trade with its neighbors. The Silk Road initiative will use an ancient trade route as a guide to greater exports of China’s future innovative products.
Finally, Shanghai Wash U EMBA Class-13 graduate, Egor Pereverzev, shared his steps for successful business negotiations in China. Drawing on his 13 years negotiating with Chinese suppliers for EKF Elecrotechnical, Pereverzev says that Russians like him, and even Americans, are at a cultural disadvantage in negotiating with Chinese business executives. Negotiating for a deal is part of the culture. He detailed how to be successful by learning the negotiation culture of China.
The group quickly put their new negotiation skill set to the test at the Shanghai Fabric Market.
When purchasing tailored suits and coats, some held strong for the best deal, while others wilted under the pressure of the shops’ more experienced hagglers.
Day 5-7 – Shanghai and Field Study
The last three days in China were a flurry of educational activities. Starting with a tour of the new Johnson & Johnson headquarters building in Shanghai, Dr. Hong Xin, Sr. Director of New Ventures, explained that a major focus of J&J’s innovation in China is focused on developing drugs to combat their top health issue, lung cancer. But she says J&J embraces the non-pharma solution to lower the number of cases with prevention and interception.
The group’s next assignment was to travel on their own from J&J to the afternoon business panel discussion on the other side of Shanghai. With maps and a little instruction at the subway station, all successfully traversed the city with little problem.
Several Wash U Olin Alumni made up the afternoon business panel discussion. Major business topics in China like IP protection and joint ventures, along with expiate adjustments made for an energetic Q & A with the class.
Friday was the field study day. A group, made up of those mainly in the health care sector, toured a large urban hospital and a community health clinic. They also had their evidence based practices challenged when exploring the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. About ten other EMBAs visited four advertising companies located in the same high rise. The other half of the group was assigned local Chinese markets and Western malls to try and discover new branding schemes and store or product concepts.
This day concluded with an optional market and cooking experience. The trip to the market included multi-colored eggs, slithering ells, and strange Asian vegetable varieties. They then stretched and twirled the noodle dough and sliced and stir fried the chicken, while others filled and pinched dumplings, readying them for the steamer.
A joint class with Shanghai Olin EMBA Class-15 at Fudan University on Saturday morning started our last full day in China. Professor Panos Kouvelis prepped the class for a simulation that combined teams of the two classes tackled together.
Saturday concluded with the U.S. based EMBAs separating from Class-15 to a new class room for the team presentations on the Field Study findings.
Learn more about our university travel programs.