Monday - 5/23
We began the day in Beijing and came across many cool cultural practices at the Temple of Heaven. In the courtyard at the temple we found many people dancing in a large group to the music that was playing. We also experienced a similar event at the Summer Palace last week when a large group of people got together to sing with a small band at the top of a hill. It was interesting to see that people enjoy to sing and dance together in groups, I'm assuming this is due to the collective nature of the culture.
Later on Monday we traveled to Tianjin via high-speed train which topped off at about 330 kph (205 mph). We were welcomed by Nankai University students for dinner Monday night. I met Huangzhong at dinner and learned a lot about what he wants to do in the future. I learned that many Chinese students desire to travel to the US for their graduate programs and then return to China and find good jobs within the government. When I asked, "Why don't you want to find work in the U.S. after graduation?" I was told that they want to return to China to help take care of their parents. Family is very important to the Chinese people and deeply rooted in the culture.
Tuesday - 5/24
Today we had our first lecture given by Professor Lin Runhui which covered E-Business in China. China has about 300 million internet users which is about 23 percent of the population. There are great opportunities for expansion of Chinese netizens in the near future as the country rapidly gets online. We also learned that almost 40 percent of internet users in China access the web via mobile devices. Many rural areas have limited resources for computers to be hardwired into a network, and thus the popularity of mobile devices is increasing quickly. Today we also had the opportunity to play basketball with many of the Chinese students. The style of team sports is much different in China. When playing basketball it is rare to see passes near the basket and more often one player drives the lane and shoots themselves. Martin explained that this is due to the fact that many Chinese are not very efficient in teamwork. It was interesting to see this in practice as we learned an ancient Chinese proverb that describes this cultural difference in teamwork. The proverb states, "One man is a dragon, but three men are a worm".
Wednesday - 5/25
Wednesday included a lecture by Professor Zhao Wei as well as a visit to SPD Bank in Tianjin. The lecture by Professor Zhao Wei included information on leadership in business in China. I learned that leaders may only be effective in the right situation and the right followers. Due to the collective nature of the Chinese people and the fact that individuals are respected for their membership within a group, it is important that the right person be placed in leadership positions in order to be effective. Respect for authority is a very important virtue to the population as well.
The banking system in China operates in a much different environment than the United States. Unlike the U.S., China's banks are allowed to set their own interest rates for borrowing, creating fierce competition which some would consider unfair. In addition, because giving gifts and providing hospitality is a cornerstone of the Chinese culture, this too exists in the banking industry. In the United States a business is frowned upon for providing gifts to customers in many circumstances as this can be used as a method of bribery. In China however, it is customary to give gifts and they are not used as bribes. This difference in cultures is noteworthy and must be taken into account when doing business between the U.S. and China. What is acceptable and customary in one culture may get you into some serious trouble in the other. Being aware of the differences in the business environments of each culture is necessary to be successful.
Thursday - 5/26
I have begun to observe the high context culture that exists in the Chinese culture. Today we learned about relationships and how the Chinese people interact with each other. There are three rules that help people navigate proper interactions, these include: the rules of needs, the rules of relations and the rules of law. The further one gets from the rules of needs thus less meaningful the bond becomes. For instance, interactions with family are conducted under the rule of needs and are much more important than the rules of law. If a brother needs something their siblings will help them for no reason other than that they are family. This may also explain the observation that many drivers do not appear to follow any kind of rules while driving. Many cars will turn around in the middle of busy streets or continue to move through an intersection after the light has turned red. Pedestrians will often walk across the road when they do not have the right-of-way and cars will swerve around them as they pass through the intersection. I would assume that this lack of attention to the law has something to do with the fact that the rules of law are the furthest removed from the individual, coming after family and friends (the rules of needs and the rules of relationships).
A very interesting phenomenon that I learned about yesterday is the fact that many private Chinese firms are led through a form of paternalistic leadership. Many of these corporations have a man as the president and a woman as the CEO or other another title of similar status. This is done to symbolically show the company is being run by the father and the mother. I found this very fascinating as it mimics the importance of the family in business. In paternalistic leadership the company's president (or father) is responsible for the company's success as a father would be for the family. The workers listen to and respect the authority of the father as the children would in a household. In China there are also distinct differences between managers and leaders. A manager's job is to make decisions, minimize risks, take credit for achievements and wants results. However, a leader is more focused on facilitating decisions, taking risks, breaking rules, giving credit to others and wants achievements.