Category Archives: Winter Term 2012 – China

Winter Trip: Elon University MBA and Law China: Final Day

Top 10 (or so) Memories from the Elon MBA & Law January 2012 Trip to China and Hong Kong

Today is our last day in Hong Kong – tomorrow we head home.  It has been an eventful, fun-filled, educational adventure full of company visits, sightseeing, and new friendships.  To commemorate our Winter 2012 educational escapade, we offer the following top 15 memories (there were too many good ones to keep it to only 10):

15. A small sub-group of us enjoying the flight to China so much that they emptied the airplane wine inventory on the way!

14. All of the opportunities we had to frankly question high-level leaders about business and legal practices and issues facing their companies and countries

13. Dinner and debate with UK, Chinese, Dutch, and other nationals at the Hong Kong Royal Yacht Club

12. Lien setting off the alarm at the security checkpoint during our visit to the US Embassy in Beijing

11. The candor of the US embassy officer regarding issues, challenges, and expectations for China in general, and for foreigners doing business in China

10. Ben singing to all of us on the bus after losing a bet

9. Getting candid answers and a manufacturing plant tour from both Chinese and US executives and managers of RFMD

8. Gaining insight into centuries of Chinese history through visits to the Forbidden City, the Ming Tombs, Tiananmen Square, and more

7. An in-depth introduction to LEDs, and extremely thorough answers from executives and managers at Cree regarding both the industry and their company

6. Sheila – our tour guide, constant companion, attentive mother hen, and faithful adviser

5. The sights, serenity, and splendor of the Badaling section of the Great Wall

4. Experiencing the native Chinese Hutong culture via rickshaw rides, an immersive tea experience, and dinner in a Hutong home

3. The amazing and comprehensive tour of the Port of Hong Kong, including an extensive question-and-answer exchange throughout our time there, a visit to the operations center / ‘control tower,’ and a tour around and amidst all the containers, cranes, and ships

2. Hong Kong scenery and nightlife, including boat rides, scenic views from skyscrapers, karaoke, and free time to explore

1. Gaining new friendships with other Elon MBA and Law students, as well as overseas business and legal contacts – and sharing trip “Highs” and “Lows” with each other during our final trip meals and other conversations

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog entry, as well as the others – and are encouraged about the value and benefits of the January 2012 China and Hong Kong trip (whether you were on the trip, knew somebody who was, and/or will join us on one in the future).  Thank you for your interest!

Steven Burtoft and Randall Borror


Winter Trip: Elon University MBA and Law China: January 20, 2012

Many of us kicked off Friday in the early hours of the morning at Neway—a karaoke bar on Kowloon near to our hotel. We figured what better way to soak up a little bit of local color than with a favorite Chinese pastime (or at least so we’d been told)?! The fact that we got put in a private karaoke room led us to believe that perhaps our reputation as stellar singers had preceded us and no one wanted to be shown up on a Whitney Houston number (yeah, yeah…probably not the reason but let us keep dreaming okay?). Either way, it was a total blast and the best hits of the 80s, 90s, and today were belted/wailed/whined in style for hours on end. MBA /Law bonding experience? Check.

After several much needed hours of post-karaoke slumber, we all got up and headed down to the bus for a visit to our friends at the VF Corporation. Once there we met with Tom Nelson, vice president for Global Product Procurement and managing director for Global Sourcing. In addition to all of that, Tom is also an Elon parent (his oldest daughter graduated from high school in Hong Kong last year and is currently enjoying her freshman year at Elon)!

Tom gave us a great overview of VF in Asia and the world and how their brands interact to make them a leader in the apparel industry. Most interesting was learning more about how VF helps to maintain the individual spirit of the brands that they acquire (their most recent acquisition was Timberland). Tom talked about how walking into an innovation center for The North Face is very different from entering the offices at Wrangler or Reef.  We got to see exactly what this meant when we went on an impromptu visit to a couple of show rooms in the building. Nestled between cubicles, meeting spaces, and shelves overflowing with fabric swatch binders were rooms for several of the individual apparel brands that VF maintains. With its rough cement floors and industrial design elements (from the clothing racks to the exposed pipes on the ceiling), the Vans room felt very much like an ode to a skateboard park.

Nautica, on the other hand, was very clean and polished—displaying the colors and emblems of the upcoming season’s collection on minimalistic (but wood and still somewhat nautical feeling) shelves. The Eastpak room felt like its brand, too, and was a perfect example of why these rooms were designed the way they were. Each showroom is meant to be a little slice of the brand it houses so that when brand employees come to the Hong Kong office on assignment they will have a workspace that feels like home.

Of course, the rooms can work as functioning showrooms if a buyer is coming to see the product but, more importantly, they are work spaces for each specific brand’s employees. The Eastpak room was in the middle of being used for just that and was strewn with fabric samples, boxes of product, and various bags and backpacks.

In addition to our time with Tom at VF on Friday morning, we also heard from Jeff Blount of the law firm Fullbright & Jaworski, LLP. Based in Houston Texas, Fullbright & Jaworski is an international law firm with more than 70 offices all over the world. Blount is currently a business lawyer living in China and explained that he represents a lot of American companies that are in the process of buying Chinese companies.

Throughout the morning session, Blount discussed China’s evolving regulatory environment and practices, and he also talked about China’s main laws and rules affecting inbound investment and mergers & acquisitions transactions. He also touched upon how his firm deals with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Acts, which deal with improper payments to Chinese government officials in order to obtain or retain business. Likewise, Blount mentioned that China’s domestic anti-bribery rules are strong and their enforcement has become increasingly robust.

Following our morning visits we loaded back onto the bus and headed for a traditional dim sum (and then some!) lunch. Crowded around the lazy susans (and huddled together for warmth as this particular restaurant was quite chilly) we shared some exotic new dishes and some that by this point have become old favorites. We also marveled while a Chinese family seated at a table nearby that was at least twice the size of our 12 person tables managed to share a meal with a lazy susan that was no larger than ours without spilling anything on the tablecloth! Oh to be so gifted with the chopsticks (we’re still working on it)…

After lunch we headed for the docks where we hopped on two party boats and headed out for one of the highlights of the trip. We passed the Jumbo Floating Restaurant…

…and rode into the typhoon shelter (which looks much like a harbor) where we saw a local phenomenon. Dozens and dozens of boats anchored and lashed together where families live full time! Of course, we had heard of house boats before (come on, who hasn’t seen Sleepless in Seattle?!), but we had never seen anything like this:

Seriously. How cool is that?! Right in the middle of the city there are all these industrial-looking boats just hanging out with clothes hung out to dry and local fishermen floating by. So neat.

Completely awesome. After our trusty captains (all the helmsmen were actually helmswomen—supposedly because of the mad skillz needed to navigate a big boat through the awkwardly arranged harbor—girl power!) got us back to shore, it was back on the bus and over to the Stanley Market to shop ‘til we dropped. We should note that at this point some members of our group had headed back to the hotel to make their way to Macau for the evening, but the faithful remnant spent an hour or two shopping around the market.

On the way there we drove on many curvy hillside roads and saw some spectacular views of the water. We even passed a theme park with rollercoasters on the side of a mountain/glorified hill—surely a ride on one of them would have you thinking that you were bound for a hillside tumble and then a giant splash at the bottom—and an upscale apartment building with a hole in the middle of it (don’t worry, it was intentional since the land had been the site of some gory goings on and the building needed to have a way to let the ghosts—or “goats” as we swear our tour guide Mike said—pass through). The market was fun and quite a bit classier than those we visited in Beijing, but a little over an hour was plenty of time there as we were all exhausted and ready to get started on our official free time.

Back at the hotel we took time to rest and change and then headed out in smaller groups. Some went to Macau while others explored the area near our hotel on Kowloon. Several of us walked down to the harbor and had drinks at Aqua Spirit (situated on the very top floor of one of the tallest buildings in HK). The view was incredible—water, skyline, mountains, and sky. The buildings were all lit up for the Chinese New Year with messages of season’s greetings and images of giant dragons. Some buildings even had laser shows on their sides and coming off their roofs. It was an unparalleled sight and we refuse to spoil it by posting any pictures as they simply don’t do it justice (you’re going to have to go there the next time you’re in Hong Kong).

We ventured onto the subway (which was super efficient and fairly easy to figure out) to head up to Soho and some other nearby areas which boasted a whole new set of bars, restaurants and shops that were yet undiscovered by us. All in all, Friday was an eventful and successful day and it’s safe to say that everyone went to bed that night a very happy camper!

Danielle Appelman, Gavin Sands and Jennifer Tucci

Winter Trip: Elon University MBA and Law China: January 19, 2012


Today was our first full day in Hong Kong with company visits. We started the morning with breakfast in the hotel. The options included: various dim sum items, western items, rice and noodles, and delicious brownie-muffin! Dim yuuuum! Following breakfast we boarded our bus, driven by the “second best bus driver in Hong Kong,” and headed for coffee and our first stop.

Hong Kong Greater Chamber of Commerce

At our first stop at the HKGCC, we met former WTO representative Tony Miller who introduced us to the relationships between Hong Kong and China in the area of commerce. The presentation included a history and geography lesson on the trade practices in China over the past 2000 years and the influence Hong Kong had upon it. One of the more memorable points of the presentation was the major effect that waterways had upon China’s trade routes and developments. The three dividing rivers in China were part of the reason for increases in trade and settlement over time. Our next stop was the Hong Kong International Terminal.

Hong Kong International Terminal (HIT)

No, HIT is not in the airport, but it does play a strong role in transportation. HIT facilitates the transfer of goods between major ports all around the world. HIT employs about 1500 permanent employees at the Hong Kong branch alone, who monitor the logistics and weather patterns associated with large containers of goods. HIT is located all over the world, but does not run any ports in the US or Japan. It was explained that US ports designate specific berths for each docked slip but HIT does not. This difference dictates where HIT runs ports. In Hong Kong, due to the lack of developable land and space restraints, HIT has reclaimed part of the water to stack 7-9 containers on top of each other. This is much higher than most ports. There are 40+ cranes, some of which are hybrid.  We were also fortunate to have a bus tour of the yard.  After HIT, we had lunch at a Hong Kong dim sum restaurant and then went to our final tour of the day, CREE.


At CREE we were hosted by Chris Plunket, an NC State graduate and childhood friend of Professor Andy “I ride my bike in wooden dutch clogs” Haile. This company specializes in LED technology and the design, manufacture, and sales of their products. While there, we were split into two groups. Each group was shown virtual tour of the manufacturing facility in China as well as demonstration and presentation on the differences of lighting and LED options. This company seems to be very hands on with their growth and operations in Asia. For example, CREE supplied the lighting for the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube facilities of the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing. Interestingly, CREE is located in Hong Kong and manufactures in China out of logistical necessity for selling their products in Asia. However, they have their headquarters and major R and D in Durham, NC. After the presentation, we were taken to the rooftop of CREE’s very “green” building. The views were amazing. We finished our tour with a group photo.

On the bus ride home, Mike, our tour guide, read a couple of palms. Savannah, may die soon, Crystal is destined for six lovers, and Erin is going to have a career change. Of course, Mike is only a part-time palm reader, so he may be wrong. Either way, our day was busy and fun.

Winter Trip: Elon University MBA and Law China: January 18, 2012

We have continued to push through our action packed itinerary. Up next, an early morning flight to Honk Kong via Dragon Air, including a 4:30 a.m. wakeup. The flight from Beijing to Hong Kong was approximately three hours. As we descended into Hong Kong, the beautiful scenery reminded me a bit of Hawaii.

After arrival in Hong Kong, we met Mike our tour guide for the next four days and loaded on to the bus. While we will miss our friend Shiela, we could tell right from the beginning that Mike had a great knowledge of the area to compliment his sense of humor, which would make our stay in Hong Kong entertaining. The sights of Hong Kong were quite different than what we had gotten used to in Beijing. The colors of the buildings, the vibrant vegetation and clean water of the harbor was best described by one of our classmates as “having gone from black and white to color television.”

Our first stop in Hong Kong was “The Peak,” which sits on the mountain side overlooking the city of Hong Kong. To get to the Peak, we took a cable car straight up the side of the mountain. It was steep, very steep.  From the summit, we could see a complete view of the Hong Kong skyline, which has been ranked as the most beautiful in the world.  With an evening full of activities ahead, we would then head to our home for the next few days, The Hotel Kimberly.

The Hotel Kimberly is located in a vibrant shopping district full of bars, restaurants, and both  high and low end retail shops eateries. The streets are narrow and full of people, but the sights and sounds were endless.  We didn’t have much time to rest before we had to meet back in the lobby for a very special treat for dinner.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel for the night.  Since it was our first night in the city, some of us decided to walk around the hotel area of the city to get our bearings.  The city was very active even at 11 p.m. people were bustling, shops were open and there were bright signs everywhere.  After getting a lay of the land, we found a back alley behind the hotel that had numerous shops and restaurants.  Sitting down to have a beer was a great way to interact with the locals and unwind after our long day.  We got the chance to meet three chaps traveling from the UK to Australia for holiday.  They had great stories to share and we got to talk about our extensive knowledge of futball.  It was getting late and knowing we needed to meet in the lobby at 7:15 AM Thursday evening we decided to call it a night.

Mike Kopczynski, Ben Tario, Savannah Mangum

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.

Winter Trip: Elon University MBA and Law China: January 15, 2012: Elon Conquers the Great Wall

Today should be called “Sunday Funday” in Beijing because the MBA and Law students had such a blast!

Our day kicked off with a tour at the Jade Museum. Jade is a jewel that is greatly valued in China and proved to be pretty popular amongst the Elon-folk as well.  Lots of students and faculty will be bringing back their family and friends jade (and if they don’t, check their wrists and hands for bracelets and rings because they must be keeping them for themselves)!

Our next stop was the Sacred Walk that led to the Ming Tombs.  The Sacred Walk is lined with marble statues of Chinese guards, elephants, camels and lions. The statues are large in stature, incredibly striking and great to pose with. After taking the Sacred Walk we were free to visit the tomb of Emperor Changling who was the third Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Only two Emperor’s tombs are available to the public, so we took the opportunity to visit Changling.  The Chinese believe that after visiting a tomb a person’s soul may get left behind, so our tour guide and new friend Sheila told us it was important to yell “I made it back” as we were exiting the archway of the mausoleum.  Sheila wanted each of us to ensure that our souls were returned with us to the United States!

Because the Chinese believe in eating well, we were served another great meal at lunch. The greatest part was that  it was Sunday brunch, which meant that there was entertainment along with the meal. While we ate sweet and sour chicken, duck and other Chinese specialties there was a magic show, card tricks, singers and other various performers.

After we had eaten a great lunch we were more than prepared for our busy day.  Our afternoon consisted of conquering the Great Wall of China and the Silk Market. The Great Wall is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and we are happy to say that we got the fabulous opportunity to experience one of them while we were in China. Visitors to the Great Wall can climb the wall but they have to be prepared for hard work. The wall is very steep and very long.  Most of us spent forty-five minutes climbing and another forty-five minutes heading back down. On our trip up we met other climbers who were from North Carolina. We couldn’t believe that we traveled across the world and as we were climbing the Great Wall we ran into some of our neighbors! After we conquered the Great Wall the entire group sat around at a local coffee shop drinking hot chocolate and reveling in our experience.

Our last stop on our day’s adventures was at the Silk Market. The Silk Market tested our negotiation skills with the locals. The silk market is a five story building full of goodies ranging from shoes to jewelry to purses to tea sets. The prices in the Silk Market are not fixed so we were busy haggling with the locals and trying to get the most we could for our money.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Elon has taught us to negotiate well because we came out of the Silk Market with bags full of things.  We are concerned that when we fly to Hong Kong we will have to pay extra baggage fees because we all have bought so many things here!

All in all, our second full day in China was a huge success. The history, shopping, culture, food, and the Great Wall are experience we will remember forever.

—Ashley Hansen, Melissa Apperson & Meghan Varner—

Winter Trip: Elon University MBA and Law China: January 14, 2012

Jasper and I settled into our room in Beijing last night after an exhausting day of travel.

We started our morning at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Beijing with a Continental Breakfast with a mix of eastern and western cuisine.  Next, we met our tour guide, Sheila, who met us at the hotel at 8:15 a.m.  Our first stop was at Tiananmen Square.  Weather was chilly and we watched the soldiers shivering while they were guarding.  This was our first experience with the local vendors, who were hawking knickknacks and tchotchke like Chairman Mao wristwatches and Chinese flags. After exploring the various corners of the square, Sheila held up her trusty flag, leading the way to the bus and our next stop, the Urban Planning Museum.

At the Planning Museum, we first viewed a wooden small-scale version of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The top floor offered an excellent view of a large map of the current city of Beijing, and also showed the future plans for the city, including green initiatives.

Sheila next led the way to the Forbidden City, where we toured all the way through to the gardens. The students took several photo opportunities, including the lions guarding the inner sancta, and turtles that promised 100 years of long life.

Shopping opportunities abounded at the Silk Factory, where we started with a guided tour from moth to quilt. After learning of the virtues of real silk, students bought comforters, scarves, dresses, and Andy and Jack dressed in traditional silk garb.

The tour continued on to the Olympic village. We had the chance to look at the interior of the Bird’s Nest, which is being used as a snow park during the winter.

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Perhaps the most exciting shopping event of the day was a trip to the Pearl Market, where we learned about the high standards of real Chinese pearls before having a chance to browse through dizzying panoply of pearl jewelry.

The day ended for some of us at a local restaurant near the hotel called Merry Home. Although there was initial confusion due to the language barrier, we tucked into some dumplings and noodles and enjoying some great customer service. We fell into pleasant somnolence in anticipation of a full day of events and sites to experience tomorrow.