May 12th

Today is a business day! Our schedule features two company visits: EBW and Baosteel.

The bus ride, which is now part of our daily routine, takes us first to Highkelly Industries. Highkelly is part of the EBW group, founded by a former Albertan hockey player, and headquartered in Calgary. The Walters (father and son) have been working in Shanghai for almost 20 years now. They mainly work in investment and Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) between China and Canada, as well as own a manufacturing company producing pipeline equipment. They gave us a lot of insight about doing business in China, emphasizing again what we had just started to learn, namely the importance of building strong relationships (“guanxi”), the constant necessity for flexibility, patience and face. Their enthusiasm for Asia and the numerous opportunities available there inspired us to learn more about the Chinese culture, which is key to developing a sustainable business in China. Some of us might now more seriously consider doing business with China, perhaps moving there one day.

Proudly covered with our hard hats, we finished the visit by touring the manufacturing plant were we saw a massive partially built oil rig. To top it all off, Highkelly Industries arranged a popular tradition in the Chinese culture: a lunch in a very small village. The road to the village was really beautiful, with ranges of trees along our way and small traditional Chinese houses. The lunch itself was, for us, the best meal of our trip: among others, banana pitas, Kobe beef, pork rice, dumplings… everything was delicious and our hosts made our stay unforgettable!

Our last stop of the day was a visit to Baosteel or “wow” steel as some impressed students would say. Before we toured the production line, we had a tour by bus, and the size of the site really amazed us. Baosteel is a city inside the city, the CEO is even the mayor! It has a zoo, gymnasium, and recreational facilities for the staff. The total area is 8.1 km long and 3.5 km wide. It has the shape of a rectangle in order to facilitate the logistics. It is surprisingly green as 41% of the total land is saved for green space. The production line itself is quite impressive. We were able to see a portion of the process in which liquid steel was cooled, flattened and rolled into massive spools all within a matter of minutes. It turns out that the production pace is currently quite slow, which is evidence of the decreasing demand of steel, and low prices. This was one of the most amazing sights of the trip and we were very grateful to see something like this.

Back in the bus, direction Shanghai and the SAI. It’s time to say goodbye to Pr. Wong, already. Edy had done so much for us this trip including setting us up with a clothing manufacturer. Tonight was the fitting for all of our suits that we had been measured up for 48 hours earlier. Needless to say, our tailor delivered and only a few alterations were necessary. China is quite the place, the ability to deliver low cost products at an impressive rate was evident from EBW to Baosteel to our custom tailor. All in all, this was a day that will stand out in our memories of the 2014 China study tour.




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May 11th: Big Hair Day in Shanghai

Today consisted of touring around the heart of Shanghai. Through the shrouded mist (rain) we were able to explore the Pudong Financial district, the Bund, Nanjing road (shopping district) and the Xintiandi (the entertainment district).

The morning started not that early with breakfast at the hotel. One the way to the Financial district the tour guide explained unique facts about Shanghai. Fun fact: Shanghai has a population of 23 million, of that population only one third have a single car. The cost of a Shanghai Licence plate is 90,000 RMB (~$15,000 CDN), which limits the amount of people on the road. The government manages the number of cars on the road by allowing a limited number of Shanghai licence plates. The wealthy families who want more than one car purchase a second licence plate in a smaller city (lower cost). Only Shanghai plates are allowed on the freeways during rush hour traffic.

Upon arrival we started the day flying at 259 m above street level at the transparent observatory. The sights were somewhat clouded by the mist, but we were able to see most of the architecture around the Pearl Radio and TV tower (Pearl Tower).

Prior to touring the Pearl Tower, the group had a much needed Starbucks treat. As we entered the tour a marching band appeared out of thin air and played well known march music. We then took the elevator up to the view observatory deck and enjoyed the views of the majestic city. The group observed the Global Financial Centre hotel (101 stories, tallest building in Shanghai).  Prior to 1994, there were no high rises in Shanghai. Today, the skyline of the city is filled with unique buildings creating a futuristic atmosphere.

Next, we went to the Shanghai History Museum located at 0 m of the Pearl Tower. The exhibits displayed a depiction of life in early Shanghai using colourful displays and models. The displays highlighted the subservient relationship of the Chinese with the Westerns in China, which has affected how China today conducts business with the world. As a result, today the Chinese ensure a mutual respect clause is adhered to in every business contract when dealing with foreigners.

Lunch was had in the Bund district which is across the river from the financial centre. The food consisted of Shangainese cuisine adapted to a western audience. The noodles and the meatballs were a hit with the group. Pleasant surprise: the bathrooms were in the Western style and perfumed with incense. After the feast, we strolled on the world famous boardwalk overlooking the financial district and the world trade centre. We posed for pictures in front of Shanghai’s bronze bull, which mirrors the one one in Manhattan (however slightly bigger). We then shopped on Nanjing road, which is a popular shopping district among expats and locals. Shortly after, we checked out the bar district known as Xiantiandi. There were many cafes and bustling restaurants, reminiscent of any major global city.

Dinner at the hotel was brief as the group was excited to return to the Xiantiandi district to commence the evening festivities. Some of the group attended a Jazz Cafe, some went to a Moroccan themed Hookah cafe, while others strolled the district. A fun night was had by all!

photophoto (2)photo (1)

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May 10th

Just as the sky started to brighten, we had to rise and prepare to depart from the Sofitel in Xi An. Fortunately, the hotel had collected all the bags we need to have checked and delivered them ahead of us to the airport so we could leave at 6:30am and have a quick breakfast.

The trip from Xi An to Shang Hai was uneventful and went smoothly with no one being directed the wrong direction this time. We collected our bags and met our tour guide; then proceeded onto the bus to go to the Shanghai Administration Institute where we would be staying for the next 4 nights.

We had time to change and eat lunch before our lecture at 2:30pm. The lecture was interesting and it was held where government officials met to discuss policies and were trained.

Shortly after the lecture, those in the group who wanted to have custom suits and garments made went to the tailor at 5pm.

After dinner, the entire group (including the profs) decided to go to a local karaoke bar. We booked the largest karaoke room which had a dance floor for 3 hours and had an amazing time. There were dozens of beer ordered and dirty tequila shots all around. Brent brought one of the new students to meet us there at karaoke. It was an excellent night which resulted in many tired people the next day.

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May 9th: A visit to the Emperor Quin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum and Xian city wall.

By: Jyotsna, Kulwinder, and Simarpal

The customary roll call before the start of the tour bus reveals a person missing. Could that be the result of a hundred RMB bottle service the previous night? With the rest of the crowd too feeling just about Mama Huhu (so-so) we set out for another adventure, another fun-filled day.

After a few minor traffic hitches, we arrived at the Mausoleum site. On our descent at the mausoleum site, Prof. Collingwood became an unwitting target of age based –profiling. A harried vendor darted off towards him offering a wheelchair ride to the site. Little did he know that Prof. Collingwood is an avid jogger and a fitness maven. I guess we all needed a good laugh to shake off the dreariness of an hour-long ride.

According to the little history lesson provided by our tour guide Jane, the Warrior emperor Ying Zheng order construction of 8000 terracota warriors complete with horses and other military equipment to follow him in the afterlife.

We line up as Jane jostles towards the ticket counter and buys tickets for the entire group.

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After spending about 2 hours at the site, the group makes head towards the gift shop where a demure Mr. Yang Zhifa, the farmer that discovered the mausoleum site sits and signs autographs for tourists. Apparently, sometimes he hangs a sign saying no photographs as the flash bothers him. After spending a good 45 minutes at the museum gift shop, Prof. Myers and Prof. Collingwood round up all the students and we start for the local restaurant to have lunch.

china 2

After a scrumptious meal we step into the lobby that the hotel has leased out to various vendors. Each one of them was eager to catch our attention and sell their wares. After some initial apprehension, we gave in and put our newly acquired bargaining skills to test yet again. Some of us passed the test with shining colors i.e. scored some brilliant deals. But then did we score a deal on a genuine article? With lingering doubts we boarded the bus and headed back to see the City walls and much-awaited bike ride.

After another hour-long ride we arrive at the City wall entrance raring to go try out the bike ride on the city wall. Unfortunately, the weather refused to cooperate. And it started to rain. A few decided to take the tuk-tuk back to the hotel. The rest of the group stayed defiant and insisted on the riding the bikes despite the rain. The ones that took the tuk tuk, reached the hotel and thanked the heavens for being still alive.

China 3

Soon after the rest of our group that stayed back at the wall joined us. Apparently, rain can be braved but not the dust storm. The bike ride was called-off and they had to return disappointed.

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May 8th

May 8th began with a 5:00 wake up call so that the group would be packed and ready to leave at 6:15 for our flight to Xi’an. A good portion of the group had gone back to the 80th floor lounge last night to enjoy the drinks, views and jazz, so 5:00 came extra early for some.

After a quick breakfast and trip to the airport, we took a short domestic flight to Xi’an where we were met by Jing, our guide for the next few days.

MBA - Group at airport

Our group travels have had very few glitches to date, but today was our first scare when Brent’s bag didn’t show up on the baggage carousel. Luckily it was found after a quick stop at the baggage inquiry and with some help from Edy.

Our group was upgraded from the Grand Mercure to the Sofitel, so xi’an had our best accommodations on the trip.

After checking in, our group left for a company visit with Chensson Properties. Alex Sun, the CEO of Chensson, is a U of A alumni who moved back to Xi’an to take over the company that his father started in 2001. Alex was an awesome host! Upon arrival at a hotel near his current development project, we were greeted with a large sign welcoming the U of A MBA students, desserts and refreshments, and a quick talk and Q&A about Chensson. The company has now built over 4,000,000 square feet of properties, and is looking to diversify into retirement communities, tourist developments, and cultural-based developments.

MBA - Group at hotel

Alex brought us to his current project, Glory Manor, after the presentation. We were greeted by the entire Chensson management team and toured the residential and commercial sales centres.

MBA - Group at sales centre (1)

After visiting the construction site and experiencing rush hour traffic in Xi’an, Alex took us to have dinner at the Tea House in Xi’an owned by the property company. Dinner was a delicious buffet with a selection of local Xi’an food.

After supper, the group decided to take a stroll to check out the wonderful sights and sounds of Muslim quarters. It was packed with people! Eating some of these dishes would be quite an adventure, especially the ones with meat. It was all very colourful and many people took photos in front of the Bell Tower.

Finally, we ended the evening by “filling” a disco bar! There were two awesome live bands and in between sets, our group would still fill the dance floor. The owner of the bar was so happy he offered us several bottles of vodka to come back the next night! It was a night we will all remember…mostly remember I guess.

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May 7th

Today’s blog is brought to you by Dean Little, Breanna MacEachern, and Hunter Dunn.

Hunter is a recent Mining Engineering graduate from the University of Alberta, enjoys quality cigars and looks devastating in a striped three-piece. Breanna was born in the year of the Dragon, and her two claims fame are being a mediocre biathlete and placing third in Karate at the 2004 Alberta Winter Games… by default. Dean is an Aries, and in his spare time dabbles in professional photography, or at least destroying others attempts at the same.

The wake up call for day four of our trip came at 6:15am. Stumbling around, we again gazed in marvel at the heated bathroom mirror that refuses to fog under any circumstances. Why isn’t this technology in every mirror?

Breakfast, as usual, was excellent. The Traders Hotel has probably set a high water mark for all future breakfast buffet experiences.

Blue skies greeted us as we made our way to our trusty steed, the Jolly Time Travel Bus – an auspicious start to what would be another amazing day in Beijing. This would be our first opportunity for Business dress, and the classes’ attire did not disappoint. As an aside, future trips should consider requiring business dress at all times – we looked amazing.

Our first destination, a lecture from Dr. Xudong Gao at the PBC School of Finance. Dr. Gao is an Associate Professor of the Department of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, as well as Director of the MBA Program at Tsinghua School of Economics and Management.

Tsinghau University has a student population of about 80,000, and is considered the pre-eminent business school in China. All students live on campus in dorms. Unlike western universities, Chinese post-secondary institutions create and invest in private businesses. Some of these businesses are publicly traded, and are a significant source of income. The campus itself strongly resembled western universities with lots of trees and open space.

Dr. Gao’s lecture focused on the changing strategies of Chinese companies from technology transfer and acquisition, to innovation and development. Dr. Gao used examples from the telecommunications industry to show how different companies have benefited (or not) from a shift to innovation. We finished our time at the university with a walking tour of campus.

After a quick lunch in a local mall, we headed off to GE Health Care. At GE, we listened to a brief overview of all of GE’s business before focusing on GE’s medical device interests in China. The facility we visited has been in operation for 23 years. Our tour of assembly floor showed us CT, X-ray and MRI machines in various states of construction. One of the most interesting observations on our tour was the integration of extremely high tech assembly with labour intensive process. We saw little automation, and many of the reporting tools and metrics on the floor were on simple whiteboards. Coming from an Oil & Gas planning background, it was very interesting to see that a lot of the terminology and format for reporting of key metrics was familiar.

Upon returning to the hotel, the group was on our own for dinner. Some people chose to continue practicing the art of the haggle at the silk market, while others went to the Wangfujing night market. Later on, most of the group met at Atmosphere, a lounge on the 80th floor of the tallest office building in Beijing – China World Trade Center Tower III. We were serenaded by a New York Jazz group, and later on received our very own U of A shout out. Drinks were exotic (and priced accordingly). The night ended relatively early as we prepared to fly out the next morning to Xi’an.

Random notes:
• four lane intersections in busy university areas are the BEST place to do U-turns.
• Somehow no matter how tight we are for time, Samar and Kulwinder always manage to get a coffee (and aren’t late)
• The Chinese can even make air conditioners look cute

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May 6th

By: Jennifer, Chantelle, and Colin

We had a full day in Beijing today. The day started, as usual, with an excellent breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast we jumped on the bus to head to our first tour of the morning: Tiananmen Square. We arrived pretty quickly, the square is only about 6km from our hotel and the traffic wasn’t too bad. Lisa (our awesome tour guide) explained the layout of the square and the significance of the buildings. Upon walking into the square, you feel the importance of the area. It was quite clear that Tiananmen Square is an important area for the Chinese people. The buildings and the square itself are massive. We were told that the square could hold around a million people! Military soldiers were in different parts of the square standing at attention. There was a monument in the center of the square and at its base, there were a few people wearing traditional red and white robes standing very still. Lisa explained that these individuals were selected from various schools and that it was a very prestigious honor to be able to stand where they were standing.

After some time at Tiananmen Square, we passed through the Tiananmen Gate into the Forbidden City. Passing from Tiananmen Square to the Forbidden City was almost like stepping further into the past: much of Tiananmen Square’s historical significance is rooted in the era of Chairman Mao Zedong while the Forbidden CIty played a significant role in the feudal era of China. It’s hard to believe that the Forbidden City was built almost 600 years ago. Once again, Lisa had lots of information for our group on the buildings in the city and the history.

A couple of funny things happened at the Forbidden City. A local came up to Brent trying to sell something; a souvenir book. No one could understand what he was saying, but we were able to make out one thing: he referred to Brent as Happy Buddha. We all had a pretty good laugh at that. Later, in the Imperial Garden, Colin was mobbed by a group of Chinese girls for pictures. We’re not sure why they wanted pictures with him but they seemed pretty excited.

After the Forbidden City we went to an Acrobat Show. It was both awe inspiring and terrifying for us. The awe stemmed from the feats of strength and flexibility displayed that, in our opinions, were even more challenging than those in Cirque de Soleil. And the terror came from some of the stunts being quite dangerous and lacking in apparent safety equipment. For instance, surely we’re all familiar with the motorcycle in the metal ball shaped cage. Ya, they did that with eight bikes in there! One of us was nervous because of the photos she’s seen from motorcycle accidents of broken bones and scrapped metal. However, everyone make it out safely and we were very relieved. The show was decidedly entertaining: we were all mentally and emotionally invested in the different acts and the safety of the performers. It was beautiful.

After a fun filled day, many of us spent the evening practicing our negotiation skills at a nearby market. You would think that MBA skills would come in handy in this environment, but we soon found out that most of us were out of our element. The knock-off watches, purses and array of silk products, among many other things, varied significantly in price point throughout the negotiating process. Members of our group lucky enough to shop with the Bartering Ninja (a.k.a Professor Wong) secured several good deals. Those of us shopping solo however, quickly discovered that we overpaid for our purchases. Cultural lesson learned – if unable to access the Bartering Ninja’s expertise going forward, keep the following 5 points in mind:

1) Your Canadian purchasing knowledge is useless in this environment. Clean your slate and start from scratch.
2) In addition to negotiator, you are the quality control specialist. Get a good look at the product.
3) Perceived disinterest is necessary. Put your game face on and prepare to walk away.
4) Don’t be distracted by short term wins. 75% off the ticket price may not be a steal.
5) If you think you paid too much, you DEFINITELY paid too much! Dust yourself off and go back to point number 1.

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