Lessons from beyond the b-school walls: John D. Van Fleet, January 12
Historically, mainland Chinese going to US universities were overwhelmingly graduate students, who usually gained scholarships, teaching assistant positions or research grants to help cover otherwise prohibitive tuition. Now it seems that, as Chinese families become wealthier, more are investing their own capital in sending their younger offspring for an education beyond the walls of the local universities, and beyond the Great Wall itself. They surely see that the overseas experience has value beyond academic work.
At the turn of the last century, the US was a brash, adolescent, socially insecure country. We looked east, across the Atlantic, to what we perceived as a more civilized and cultured Europe. As steam-powered ships made Atlantic crossings feasible, the wealthier not only took themselves to visit, they sent their offspring on Yankee versions of the Grand Tour – long visits to Europe aimed at cultural refinement (and status, of course). The tourists returned with newly tailored outfits, slightly retailored speech habits, and Continental manners on display.
Tens of millions of Chinese now have the 21st century equivalent of ocean-going steam liners – rapidly increasing wealth and regular flights abroad. Along with China’s rapid economic ascent in products, infrastructure and other hard goods, a steady increase in the number of mainland Chinese who have not just visited, but lived overseas, represents a powerful portent for China’s development of a robust services sector – a hallmark of a fully developed economy.
Post-negotiation stress syndrome in China: Andrew Hupert, January 14
I recently ran two polls to gain insight into the challenges of Western-Chinese negotiations. First, I asked international business people with no self-declared China commercial interest or specialty, "What is the biggest challenge in doing business?" Then I asked, "What is the biggest challenge doing business in China?" to business people who have experience or a stated interest in doing business in China. They were offered the same range of responses … When the question didn’t specify China, the biggest challenges came before the contract was negotiated and a meeting of the minds was (presumably) achieved. But in China our respondents indicated that the difficulties arose after the contract was signed and both sides had reason to believe they were in agreement.
Workplace disasters cause ‘justifiable fury’: Editors’ Journal, January 8
At the bottom of China Daily’s list of tragedies that "should not have happened" in 2009 is the story of the November 22 gas explosion at state-owned Xinxing Coal Mine in Hegang, Heilongjiang province, which killed 108 workers, and destroyed the lives of as many families. The horrific event occurred the very month that Shanxi, the country’s largest coal producing province, was in the throes of nationalizing its coal mines on the pretext of improving safety and efficiency. Emerging signals suggest that with the economy back in motion, Beijing may return to the issue of workers’ rights and address the crying need for collective bargaining in securing health and safety conditions, as well as greater communication between employers and workers. But looking at the news headlines, hope for all workers to make a living without fear of death or injury seems a distant thing.
Arresting fruit for the Expo: Editors’ Journal, January 5
Last month I rode by a near-riot incited by City Management. With their customary lack of tact and kick-ass attitude, the young jack-booted thugs had decided to put an enormous fruit market out of business. Unfortunately for them, they miscalculated. Instead of meekly knuckling under, the fruit stand employees – mostly young men themselves – fought back. The scene was darkly comical. City Management came in screaming, but instead of arresting the owner or some other legalism, they decided to begin by arresting the fruit. As hundreds of bystanders watched, the men formed a fire line and began passing fruit from the displays into the back of a paddywagon. Lord knows what they had planned for the watermelons, but as they spread out, the market employees fought back with sugar cane poles that looked like the pikes serfs used to repel cavalry back in medieval Europe. The dialogue was predictably related to invitations to step closer to the arc of the pole’s swing and replies explaining what X was going to do to Y with said pole once X got his hands on it. Yes, it was funny. But it was also somebody’s livelihood. The street vendors are clearly providing a service that people demand. Denied that business opportunity, what will they do for money?