A few months ago, Manuel Serapio who teaches International Entrepreneurship at the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship asked me if I was interested in participating in an program on Chinese entrepreneurship that the CIBER (Center for International Business Education & Research) he runs would be hosting in January. I immediately said “sure.” It was only when his assistant sent me the materials that I realized the FDIB (Faculty Development in International Business) program would be hosted in China and not in Denver, CO. I’d never been anywhere in Asia and the program looked amazing. Thank you Manuel!
Even thought I set up this trip a few months ago, it did not become real to me until I got on the plane to Shanghai from San Francisco. I recently got a United Airlines credit card from Chase. It has a fairly ridiculous annual fee but a relatively low interest rate along with standard mileage earnings. It’s supreme feature is that I now automatically fly economy plus on all flights. While this can be irrelevant for shorter flights, it’s a 13 hour flight from San Francisco to Shanghai. The regular economy cabin had very few empty seats; however, economy plus was more than half empty. I had an aisle seat with 3 empty seats adjacent to me. Yes I know how lucky I was! Thirteen hours is a long time to be still and awake. I watched 3 forgettable movies (Whiteout; 500 Days of Summer; Love Happens) that I would never have seen otherwise. I also watched Nora Denzel’s “The top 10 ways you shoot yourself in the foot in the workplace” address at UC Davis on my iPod. You can get it free from iTunes University. While I cannot recommend the movies, Nora was outstanding.
I also read through the 183 document for this trip – including a number of reports and articles from the US-China Business Council and the Economist. Some of these were terrific and really put the China-US trade deficit (among other issues) in perspective.
Day 1 (January 2)
With the time zone differences, I left Denver at about 8:20 AM on January 1 and arrived in Shanghai at 5:20 PM on January 2. I don’t have much to report for my first day in Shanghai. Pudong Airport was expansive. It seems like it was built for much more traffic (and travelers) than are currently utilizing it. Signs were conveniently posted in both English and Mandarin. I easily passed my health inspection, collected my bag and cleared customs. I exchanged some US dollars for RMB at the airport which had a much better exchange rate than either Denver or San Francisco. Luckily, two other people in the FDIB group were on my flight so we were able to share a taxi to get to our hotel, Le Royal Meridien Shanghai.
My first impressions were of the smell (smoke, diesel, grime) and the sheer size of the place. The highways are large and largely empty (at 5:30 PM on a Saturday). Drivers were creative. I was feeling very grateful on the way to the hotel that I enjoy amusement park rides and do not get car sick. As we approached downtown I was amazed at how many pedestrians, bikes and scooters that we did not collide with given how our driver was navigating the vehicle. Traffic signs, lanes, lights all seemed optional to him and just about everyone else with a car.
Our hotel, Le Royal Meridien Shanghai, is modern and very well appointed. The room is quite nice but cozy for two people as I will have a roommate for this trip. Some terrific features include the shower/tub/rain shower area of bathroom, the modern lighting that can all be turned off with a single switch, the massive flat panel TV, the floor to ceiling windows along one wall and the soft and clean white linens & towels. The only real downside is the smallness which causes things like the two twin sized beds to be perhaps 4 inches apart. By the time I got to the hotel, checked in, figured out the internet access and had a shower, it was time for bed. I could see from my window that the hotel is just across the street from People’s Square but I did not do any exploring.