Days 9 & 10: Guangzhou

Day 1 is here. The next two days were all about getting acclimated.

Days 2 & 3 are here. These days were pretty much spent as a tourist in Shanghai.

Days 4 & 5 are here. Lots of meetings with companies and other experts on Chinese business development.

Days 6 is here. Our journey to Hangzhou.

Days 7 & 8 are here. Hangzhou, & Harsco Metal Company & travel to Guangzhou.

Day 9 (January 10)

On Sunday we played tourists again. A business school student led us around the new Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center. Several years ago they decided to consolidate campuses from 10 universities onto a single campus (on a separate island), almost all for undergraduates. These universities still have other campuses throughout the Guangdong province. They built 300 buildings (including student housing) using something like 3000 construction crews in just 3 years. For the purpose of efficiency, electric, water, and internet were installed as shared services. The campus was lush and beautiful but few students were outside.

We toured the Sun Yat-sen University student library which was jammed packed with students.

Later we toured the Chen Family Museum which is a major repository for Chinese folk art. Our group is definitely supporting the Chinese economy. Now number 2 in the world. Many have needed to buy additional luggage to hold all of their souvenirs.

Our hotel, the White Swan Hotel, is an interesting place. It’s on Saiman island in Guangzhou where many of the embassies are located. This is a place many American couples come to adopt Chinese baby girls (and yes only girls). Several couples we met were adopting their second or third child. One girl told me on the elevator that they came here to get her a new sister and also a cell phone.

You never really know what you are going to see here. And obviously, the Chinese take security very seriously here. The amount of construction going on in Guangzhou in preparation for the 2010 Asian Games is simply incredible. For example, this was the view from our hotel room at the White Swan Hotel.

Everywhere buildings are covered with scaffolding for renovation. They are resurfacing and “capping” the buildings. New roofs are being installed everywhere in various colors except green. One of our tour guides told us that green roofs were unlucky and suggested that a husband or wife was being cuckolded so no one wants a green roof. Of course later in our trip he told many jokes that were sometimes lost in translation so I don’t know if this was a pun or fact. The expansion of infrastructure for highways and rail lines continues at an amazing pace. Some people on our trip who had been in China 10 or 20 years ago say it is currently unrecognizable.

Day 10 (January 11)

We spent the morning at the main campus of Sun Yat-sen University which has 80,067 students on all of their campuses. The business school (with 6305 graduate and undergraduate students) was founded in 1985 and is already a leading institution in China. It’s the #4 Chinese Business School, the #4 MBA program, and the #5 Executive MBA program. Back in the 1920s, Sun Yat-sen founded SYSU as well as the Huangpu Military Academy. The goal of the business school is to become the business version of “Huangpu Military Academy in the business community with a view to education of senior executives with international perspectives, high ethical morality and professional competence.”

This was a very formal visit. An Associate Dean of the Business School was our host. After a formal presentation on the school and an extended Q & A session we went to a campus coffee shop to meet and speak with many of their faculty members and department heads. They had reviewed our credentials and expertise prior to our arrival and so had us sit and meet with people with shared interests. Their coffee shop had a terrific lunch buffet which they shared with us. Impressively, their MBA program has a 98% placement rate with the average starting salary of $10,000 RMB per month (~USD $1500 per month). While this is not a great salary in the USA, it’s terrific compared to some of the jobs we’ve observed on this trip. A variety of high tech jobs (biotech, IT) here seem to start at $4,000 RMB per month for college graduates. Salaries can be a bit misleading though. For example, we toured a manufacturing plant where the migrant workers were payed perhaps $500 RMB per month. However, they were also provided dormitory housing, health insurance, as well as lunch and dinner each day. The cost of living is much lower here so it’s difficult to make comparisons to US salaries and even more difficult to factor in the value of these additional benefits.

Sun Yat-Sen University also just established a separate school for Entrepreneurship. The Netbook I’m traveling with does not have a DVD player but they made me DVD of their promotional video for this new program. I’m looking forward to viewing it when I get home. Of course it’s in Mandarin so I’m going to need some help getting it translated.

In the afternoon we toured the Guangzhou Zhujiang Beer Company which markets its products as Pearl River beer. Interestingly, the CEO and essentially their COO (head of management department) were both women. Our group asked many questions about the role of women leaders and difficulties faced by women in such positions but as at other companies the women being asked always seem perplexed by these questions. It’s interesting that a place, which so values male children, really does not seem to discriminate in any way against women in leadership positions. The beer company, which partners with InBev (a Belgium company), like so many other businesses we’ve toured, was massive. Production capacity for bottling was approximately 40,000 bottles per hour. Beer consumption in China is growing rapidly and this year the Chinese may consume as much beer as people in the USA, although they still have some catching up to do on a per capita basis.

The brewery was attached to a beer history museum and tasting area. Our group really enjoyed the Pearl River white beer as well as beer made from pineapple. While the majority of their customers are in Asia, they are rapidly expanding across the globe with their products.