Reflective journal:After china study tour reflection Essay Example

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3After China Study Tour: Reflection

After China Study Tour: Reflection

After China Study Tour: Reflection

I reminisce the period between November 16, 2015, and December 9, 2015, for the memories and influence it had on my life and general understanding of what we in common parlances conceive as culture and diversity. Having Chinese roots myself, the three-week study tour to China completely changed my perspective on the Chinese people and the world in general, being the very first time I came into contact with the native Chinese culture and norms. Prior to the study, I had perceived the Chines as very hardworking but gloomy people, not very friendly and to some extent, characteristically materialistic. All these changed when I set foot on the world economic powerhouse last year and the experiences I had there have left a lasting impression on me. When I left Australia for China, the most I expected was to get educated, learn about the Chinese way of life and just have fun. That, to me, would have made the study tour a complete success. However, the array of events, twists and intrigues complete with mind-boggling discoveries capable of overhauling a notion of people made the tour a one off, far beyond my expectations and the very aspect that the outcome surpassed my expectations made it particularly attractive and landmark. During the tour, I got to learn so much about China as a country, its economic growth, policies and political history. At the centre of this, I got so much insight on some of the underlying mechanisms through which socialism and communism failed to thrive as the dominant economic systems in the world. It is important to note at this point of the reflection that most of these insights, I had either not read them in books and academic material or never gained a much clearer perspective before. Moreover, I learnt quite much concerning Chinese culture and especially that there existed distinct ethnic fractionalization in China! On the Chinese education system, the fundamental tenets of human constructs that the system sought to build on individuals, the legal system of the country and its institutions, tourism and much more. The following sections of this essay present a systematic reflection on my Chinese adventure on various constructs.

Friendliness and Culture of the Chinese People

For anyone who has visited China, it will be easy to notice that the Chinese people have a unique way of welcoming visitors that works to provide a fresh access to hospitality. With an ability to identify with a few constructs of Chinese culture, I had a completely different experience being welcomed as an alien and visitor in the Asian country. The events that brought this aspect to the fore occurred at the two universities we visited in China for an exchange program namely, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics (SUIBE) and Fudan University. In Australia, the orientation programs we conduct for visitors coming for exchange programs from other universities outside the country are often brief and unceremonial. So you can imagine my surprise when we arrived at SUIBE and realized that a welcome party had been organized in our favour! Having settled in the Chinese Cultural Auditorium (CCA) at the university premises, an architectural masterpiece overlooking a 1000-acre plain in the Songjiang District in Shanghai, I had a lifetime opportunity to witness Chinese culture at its best as the SUIBE students walked around clad in traditional regalia, ready to entertain their guests, me included. The ceremony had not even began, but I was already feeling loved and appreciated, the ushers kept chatting with us, asking if we needed anything, actions that made me revere the friendliness of people, in the disguise of Chinese natives. One after the other, different groups of SUIBE students and lecturers performed different songs and dances for us. My greatest surprise concerning Chinese culture came at this point when I was informed that the different songs had been performed by different ethnic groups in China, for me, everything looked so similar only to be told that the cultures were so distinct that the different groups performing that afternoon even experienced interactional difficulties among themselves.

Other than the Chinese dance, I had an impressive encounter with spicy Chinese foods. There are quite a number that fascinated me but the very first I recall enjoying is the Gong Bao Chicken. This Chinese delicacy, which became very popular with the foreigners, is a meal made of diced chicken, fried peanuts and dried chilli. In the first few days of my stay in China, I noticed that the finger-liking meal can be prepared in many ways. There are times when the cornstarch is used to cover the diced chicken before mashed garlic, sour and sweet taste as well as vegetables are added, making it deliver a completely difference experience when served. The Chinese Spring Rolls were as much a delicacy. Served mostly during breakfast, the vegetables or meat made up the spring rolls and the taste is particularly savoury, a taste that characterizes my memory of exotic foods even today for its uniqueness. Other Chinese delicacies I recall savouring include Peking Roasted Duck, The Wontons, Dumplings,
Chow Mein and finally, the Ma Po Tofu, a famous Chinese dish in the Chuan cuisine.

At the welcome ceremony, the facilitators of the event also provided an overview of the Chinese culture and how it influenced the social and political organization of the country. It is at this point that I had to learn about Guanxi, a Chinese concept that pertains to the nature of relationships that may result in exchanges of mutual benefit to the parties involved in a transaction (World Learner Chinese, 2016, n.p). According to the presentations provided by the speakers at the event, who mostly consisted of trade ambassadors from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China as well as the Trade and International relations departments, Guanxi, a fundamental concept in China, essentially referred to what we, in other countries refer to as networking, only that it has precise constructs rooted in the Chinese culture that makes it influential. For me, the discussions about Guanxi, both at SUIBE and lecture halls of Fudan University, provided me with an insight I never had before. The notion that a good Guanxi establishes trust and reciprocity and that for an individual to successfully do business in China, they needed first to establish a good Guanxi, what I came to conceive from my perspective as the nature of relationship after service. Intuitively, the experience and insights I generated from the Chinese concept of Guanxi elicited an enthusiasm and imagination of how cultural aspects can be used to establish trust in business transactions thereby reducing the transaction costs, which economists view as the greatest impediment to efficiency in economic systems (Gârleanu & Pedersen, 2013, p. 2309-2340). The insight from the Chinese concept of Guanxi has changed my perspective to business transactions and these days, I often try to find a manner in which social capital and culture can be used to establish trust and thereby act as reliable institutions that reduce the transaction costs of doing business. The significance of Guanxi resonated with me immediately while in China especially after learning that there about 56 officially recognized ethical groups in China, making the country very diverse, therefore, increasing the complexity of doing business. This is the very first time a cultural solution for me, seemed optimum for corporate problems.

A visit to the cultural city of Suzhou for a single day marked the epic of my Chinese adventure as I got to know quite a lot about the heritage of the Chinese people. Suzhou Museum, built in 1960 and located in the Bei family ancestral temple, provided a perfect place to understand Chinese culture and heritage in a way no other place or artefact would ever do, especially for the lasting impression it left on me. My colleagues had different experiences but for me, there is little to compare with the inspiration that comes with visiting a cultural centre complete with calligraphy, ancient paintings unearthed relics, crafts and revolutionary relics that told of China’s political and cultural history the realest of ways possible. The cultural centre also has three major halls including the Lucky Traditions Hall, Children’s Rearing Hall, and Lucky Traditions Hall. In a day packed with activities, all I recall are the performances that took place in the Local Festival Hall that completely changed my perception of what we conceive as cultural performances. It got me asking questions such as “how cultural should cultural performances be?” “Are some performances more cultural than others?” These effects were created after I witnessed performances of Chinese heritage such as performances of the Lotus Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Roll the Immortal and, later on, sightseeing at Shangtang. Looking back at my encounters with the Chinese culture in Suzhou, I cannot help but appreciate the need to preserve human heritage for the beauty that comes with it and especially for the impression it leaves on exotic peoples when they visit. Essentially, my visit to China enabled me to understand the very actions that make the Chinese people very friendly and also appreciate their culture especially the overarching principles like Guanxi and the diversity of the peoples.

Chinese Political and Economic System: Knowledge that changed perceptions of China

Part of the exchange program in China involved learning the fundamental mechanisms that enable the Chinese economy to prosper, studying the major economic and political policies that shaped the country’s destiny. To achieve this milestone, it even became necessary to visit some of the largest companies in Shanghai to find out how the political and economic systems functioned at the firm level and this is what changed perceptions of China especially on the ease of doing business in the country. For me, this was a life opportunity to examine practically, all the political and economic myths I have always heard about the Chinese economic model of development. For instance, prior to my visit to China, I had read that China had a “big-bang” policy approach to development that continues to shape its development and that it is just a matter of time before the economic system tumbles (McMillan & Naughton, 1992, p. 130). Moreover, there are the stylized notions that the corporate system of China is marred with corruption and that the domestic economy is often unstable (Sappin, 2014, n.p). I can, therefore, narrate here that a major part of my reflection as far as the knowledge and insights I gained from the tour as far as the political and economic systems of China are concerned were informed by my reconciliation of the myths with the actual situation in the world’s most populous nation. What impressed me the most is the functional mechanisms of the communist policies of China, which contradicted my prior conception of the economic system. Public lectures on Chinese domestic and international policies at Fudan University enabled me to know that contrary to popular beliefs, communism in China had actually evolved towards a market-centred economy, a factor that has lately been attributed to China being the largest exporter in the world since 2010 (World Fact Book, 2016). Nonetheless, other than the economic prosperity that the country has had in recent times and its position in the world market, my visit to the country enabled me to understand some of the domestic challenges the country faces. For instance, I recall many scholars and policy analysts at the public lectures at SUIBE and Fudan University were at pains explaining that for China to prosper further, it was important to reduce the country’s high domestic saving rate, tackle corruption and other social crimes, facilitate higher job-wage opportunities and ensure environmental sustainability (sustainable development). The essence of the trip is that today, whenever I hear news on the economic growth of China and the factors influencing it, I am able to relate to most of the concepts because I have, to some extent, gained an “insider” insight on the Chinese economy. Moreover, as an individual, the successes and challenges of China, as I conceived them during the exchange program, served to reaffirm my belief that every political and economic system has its core strengths and challenges and, therefore, requires a unique, integrative, country-specific solution to be addressed comprehensively.

It was not until we visited Baosteel Group, Shanghai, that I got a fresh access to the opportunities and challenges of operating a firm at a more practical level. It had never occurred to me before that a company as diversified as Baosteel Group could operate so efficiently under the Chinese business models and the legal structure. The company, other than consisting of divisions such as Production services, resource development and logistics, engineering technology services, financial investment and secondary steel processing, still managed to achieve functional efficiency in a manner very few multinationals can do. While addressing us, Mr. Fu Zhongzhe, the group president, singled out that teamwork and an effective organizational communication system complete with feedback mechanisms is the reason behind the company’s operational success. For me, the emphasis on teamwork as manifested throughout our journey in the company premises in Shanghai had one clear implication on the nature of the Chinese people that also steered their economy forward. To me, the Chinese people have a social characteristic of togetherness that has ostensibly been created through communism and organizations are taking advantage of these social attribute to structure organizational cohesion that positively impacts performance. This cultural dimension of the Chinese reflects collectivism (read aspect of individualism) in the Hofstede’s cultural approach implying a higher degree of individual integration into a group (Geerthofstede, 2016, n.p).

Another reflective point in my Chinese adventure revolves around the great depth of knowledge on technological progress in China after a brief learning session at Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Company. I was mesmerized to find out that Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Company was the very first automotive company in China since it began its market-friendly reforms and that the company, in particular, was a debut to the international community. This, to me, only showed the extent to which a country can go to undertake political and economic reforms, providing me with invaluable insights into some of the secrets behind China’s emergence as one of the biggest economies in the world today. Founded in 1984, I also was happy to find out that the company’s rapid growth and massive sales were attributed to its policy of producing affordable automotive targeting the large middle class in China, a market that gradually “owned” the company, identifying with its key values. A narration of the fortunes the company made from its domestic clientele base totally changed my perception of the ordinary Chinese person. In essence, I got to learn that in China, more than is the case in Australia, residents are able to develop a strong instrumentality to acquire property they believe will not only change their lives but improve their economy in general. Moreover, the intervention of the political class in spurring the company to grow rapidly provided me with insights into the nature of the politics-economy nexus in China. Reflecting on the insights, I find that in China, politics and economic prosperity are so intricately related in such a manner that one aspect leads to the other in a mutually reinforcing manner.

Taking Leave of China

The climax of the three-week visit, however, culminated in a farewell ceremony held in our honour at the Fudan University cultural centre. The final day has had a lasting impression on my life that will stand the test of time because I had the opportunity to address the gathering, to specifically thank our counterparts at SUIBE and Fudan Universities as well as the professors of the two great universities. I had never known that I can make such a good orator in my life, especially judging from the responses from the audience. Ever since I returned to Australia, I have never found any concrete reason behind my very effective farewell speech at the function but what I have never doubted is that at that point in time, I was so passionate and enthusiastic, so filled with gratitude and knowledge, that the only option I had was to eloquently express what I felt from the bottom of my heart. What I was faced with then, was a situation that called for a delicate balance between addressing the audience as a representative of foreign students and conveying my personal feelings towards what the three-weeks had done to me. The series of events at the farewell party not only provided me with an opportunity to augment from the gained insights but also enabled me to build some personal skills such as addressing large crowds and interacting with people at a more personal level.

Essentially, the visit to China provided me with an opportunity to not only connect with my roots but also learn, from an alien’s perspective, the cultural, social, economic and political constructs that drive a society. At the end of it all, what makes the exchange program a success is my coming to terms with my desires and expectations for the three weeks with the outcomes of the program that it actually turned out to be after the three weeks.

References

Gârleanu, N. and Pedersen, L.H., 2013. Dynamic trading with predictable returns and transaction costs. The Journal of Finance, 68(6), pp.2309-2340.

Geerthofstede, 2016.Dimensions of National Cultures. Retrieved on February 22, 2016 from http://geerthofstede.nl/dimensions-of-national-cultures

McMillan, J. and Naughton, B., 1992. How to reform a planned economy: lessons from China. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 8(1), pp.130-143. Retrieved on February 22, 2016, fromhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/23606048?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Sappin, E. 2014. Five reasons China will fail to dominate in business. CNBC. Asia Business.
Retrieved on February 22, 2016, from http://www.cnbc.com/2014/02/11/five-reasons-china-will-fail-to-dominatecommentary.html

World Fact Book, 2016. China: Economy Overview. Central Intelligence Agency. U.S. Retrieved on February 22, 2016, from
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html

World Learner Chinese, 2016. What is Guanxi? Culture & History. Retrieved on February 22, 2016, from http://www.worldlearnerchinese.com/content/what-guanxi

Zimmerman, 2015. Chinese Culture: Customs & Traditions of China. Live Science. Retrieved on February 22, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/28823-chinese-culture.html