Winter Trip: Elon University MBA and Law China: January 17, 2012

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Day five in Beijing is best surmised in the events prior, during and after our last full day in China’s capital city. The prelude to the day was an evening where two of our intrepid authors had a long, yet amazing night. The quintessential prerequisite for embarking on this journey is a honed cognizance readily available to funnel the many visits, sites and memories from the living classroom. Led by our endearing guide, Sheila, the new friendships and love-hate relationships from the night prior were cast to dormancy.

Such memories would go quietly, as some frantic calls, coffee and carbs helped to rally the still jovial troops. Sarang, prompted by Andy, gave an introductory speech about RFMD, but not before Sheila doled out another culture lesson teaching us phrases in Mandarin.  Our uptake was ma ma hou hou, but no matter as we were on our way to America.

Okay, the United States Embassy in Beijing.

Arriving, exchanging our passports for smart red badges then led piecemeal to our destination, we prepared for a lively and informative discussion on trade.  Mr. Harold “Lee” Brayman, trade policy officer for market access and compliance, began with a demographic overview of the Chinese economy. A quick note on the mission of Mr. Brayman’s office is ensuring equal access to market for all companies. China, with the world’s second largest GDP, has recently represented first, a land of industrial potential, and now consumer potential. The current percent of GDP from consumption at 30 percent inversely parallels the US, by some estimates, nearly 70 percent.

As pointed out in a gregarious back and forth discussion, which Mr. Brayman graciously sacrificed portions of his prepared material, there are both opportunities and obstacles.Some mirror issues at home – income disparity, healthcare and education access. Others reflect the gaps in social awareness and the strength of understanding for which our trip is intended. This theme would carry over to our next stop, but first departure back to China.

Reclaiming our badges, waving hello to our neighbor, India, we embark for lunch near the Jun He Law Offices. Some of our group, bloggers excluded, made an opportune Starbucks run before another family style meal. Then off to the lifts to enter China’s first private law firm.

The “Gentlemen’s Partnership” firm was established in 1989. As discovered at IBM, China’s legal system is young with an appreciating maturity. Mr. Shi supplemented our pre-departure debriefing with a lecture – Cross Culture Negotiation. As coined by Thomas Friedman, the world is flat, but no surface is without divots. It is cultural understanding that seeks to fill these holes and facilitate the global market.

Mr. Shi brought us from the definition of culture, through the maze of dos and don’ts to an overview of the players in culture. Using Germany as a cross-example, Mr. Shi highlighted some differences from perception, language and the mechanics of daily life. The presentation ended with two notes:

  • Culture is almost everything
  • Culture is different

It was now time to move from the cylinder head of Beijng’s economic engine to one of the many pistons – RFMD.

Arriving in an industrial park, guiding by the steely nerve of Master Duong, we arrive at a site post-millennial graduates may find rather foreign – an integrated circuit factory. One of the components we take for granted in our wireless handsets now stands as buildings populated by 1900+ employees. Mr. C.T. Cheong hosted an introduction of North Carolina’s own RFMD along with an overview of the Beijing facility. Then three groups peered into clean rooms to trace backward from ship and prep to wire bonding. Rob Smith of Product Engineering led the group for two of our bloggers showing how a wireless module is assembled, tested and shipped. It was an exciting and informative visit and, due to the coming New Year, the only factory tour of our visit.

Tour guide Sheila arranged a tour of Houtong, an area of narrow alleyways highlighted by the clock and drum tower of Beijing. Many of the group took this rare opportunity for an intimate look into the life and home of a Chinese family preceded by a rickshaw ride and traditional tea ceremony before culminating in a home cooked meal. A different style of home cooking was afoot as we, the bloggers (plus one), took a short walk from our hotel to an alley filled with vendors preparing street food. Trade some of the more exotic offerings – scorpions, tarantulas and bats – for ones no less foreign to our hosts – say, fried Twinkies – and the scene would be no different from the state fair.

While the 12-16 skewers of ready to cook treats were intriguing, we opted to play it safer with a mix of pork, fried bananas/mango (sorry, Hostess), shrimp, dumplings and pot stickers. The dumplings alone were enough to have one of us cash in a 401(k) and relocated to Beijing for a new lifestyle revolving around these treats.  It would not be too much to say that the dumpling, if not the day was THE BEST EVER.

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