This is the first part of a guest post by Onutase Dehenre, a member of the Texas MBA at Dallas-Fort Worth class of 2013, who recently took part in a global trip to China as part of the Texas MBA Program.
So…en route to China as part of the class curriculum. Massively excited, I must say. All this chatter about China makes the country almost seem like a mythical beast over the US…part good, part evil, omnipresent and just a pure juggernaut. Some of our classmates have chosen other “emerging economy” countries, such as Brazil, South Africa, and Vietnam, so I’m hoping I’ve made the right choice. I’ve tried my best to learn some easy Chinese grammar, but after weeks of trying to master the four tones, I’ve settled on the cross-cultural phrases: “Hi!” and “Thank you.” I hope they are “Ni hao” and “Tsie Tsie.” If not, I’m about to really embarrass the McCombs brand.
Ok…direct flight from Chicago to Beijing. Tip #1: If you can leave the US earlier than Saturday, do so. You’re going to “lose” about 1/2 a day, so leaving Chicago at 9:00pm on Saturday and then arriving in Beijing at 11:00pm was a total bummer, and should be avoided by those wanting to get settled before the festivities begin. No chance to get acclimated, see the sights, etc. Luckily, there was a group of us that just happened to be on the same flight, so we were able to shuttle to the hotel, check in, and get a little shut eye.
Our first official meeting for the day was with an executive from the US Treasury and an executive from the IMF. Since their level of candor was very high, I’ll briefly summarize their talks as highly informative…both in terms of the business climate, as well as the current/future role of the Chinese government. What impressed me about both of them was their passion for the country. Both had been in the country for years, and spoke very positively about the country’s growth (and growth prospects). Kudos to the McCombs team for getting the trip started off with such a high-level (and extremely credible) overview.
After a brief lunch (during which some of our group were introduced to the Lazy Susan, and then had to fight for beer and rice), we headed off to our first round of cultural immersion at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden Palace. I’m not sure if they were going for shock-and-awe when they built the square and the other cultural points around (to include the tomb of Chairman Mao), but pictures can’t even begin to convey the size of it. We were told that it could easily hold 1M people.
For dinner, we had the infamous Peking Duck, along with a host of other cultural oddities. I’d say as a general rule, one must keep an extremely open mind when it comes to eating food in China. Don’t be that guy/gal that requests General Tso’s chicken.
Woke up with the intent of calling the spouse. FAIL! Fine…I’ll Facebook her. FAIL! If I could go back in time and give myself a tip, I’d have a communications plan all lined up BEFORE I landed. Silly thing, but China apparently blocks a couple of rather well-known websites. I clearly deserve a “I survived the Great Firewall” t-shirt.
Tuesday started off with a trip to one of the bakeries of East Balt Inc, a company that supplies McDonalds with their buns. We got to hear how the company was started in America, and then how they’ve expanded to/within China to support the growth of the businesses they support. We then got a plant tour and watched thousands of buns/hr get converted from a mountain of dough to perfectly converted buns. Finally, the company insisted we try their products, so we skipped over to the local McD’s for lunch. Overall, a great example of international entrepreneurship.
Our last event for the day was a trip to the local market. For those of you that have never had to negotiate anything more than the price of a car, may I suggest you defer to an expert within your group. Luckily we had a master negotiator on our team, giving us a lecture on what the counter-offer should always be to start (20% of the original price, if you really want to know). It worked very well for him…and not so well for others.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part Two – Days 3-5.