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Visiting the New China: Opportunities and Challenges

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Last month, I accompanied Steven Currall, Dean of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management on a trip to China. Our purpose was to visit business schools and discuss collaboration opportunities for students and faculty, as well as Executive Education opportunities. We had the pleasure of meeting several industry executives in technology, agribusiness, real estate and financial services who provided a real “feet-on-the-street” experience about doing business in China today.

Our trip began in Beijing and continued on to Shanghai and Hong Kong with stops in Jiading and Shenzhen. Never having been to China, my first impression off the plane in Beijing was the incredible juxtaposition between a centuries-old city nestled in the midst of a modern mega-metropolis. Chinese culture shone equally bright in both the Forbidden City and the ultra-modern CCTV headquarters building. Everywhere one experiences the high-impact collision between old and new: in architecture, in culture, and even in the way business is conducted.

Beijing now holds a population of over 20 million residents and is growing in population by 10% per year due to migrants moving to the city from the rural countryside. Everywhere you turn, there are new high rises being built to handle the exponential population growth.

Over the two-week trip, we had the pleasure of meeting with leaders in education, energy, financial services, technology and agribusiness. I was honored to have the opportunity to sit face to face with the individuals who are shaping the business frontier in China. While initiatives, programs, and research are cutting-edge, tradition is a component to any meeting – it’s clear that when conducting business, relationships rule the day.

While all our experiences and interactions were eye-opening, what stays with me most are the meetings on agribusiness initiatives- likely because UC Davis is a leader in this area due to the strength of our Agricultural and Environmental Sciences College

CEIBS (the highly renowned China Europe International Business School, with campuses in both Beijing and Shanghai) recently partnered with CHIC in JiaDing to host the Inaugural China Agri-business Forum 2012, focusing on the next wave of modernization for agrifood in China. We visited CHIC and toured their new training and research facility where the agribusiness seminar was hosted. There was a lot of synergy for collaboration due to the parallel focuses of our programs.

Visiting with CEIBS in both Beijing and Shanghai was fascinating-the caliber of their faculty and program is outstanding. I had the opportunity to visit the Beijing campus of CEIBS where they were hosting a fascinating session about Art and Business. Perusing art created by China’s leading-edge artists, one gets a sense of China’s complex and layered society. There are deep roots here, as well as new frontiers, opportunities and boundaries to be pushed.

These highlights don’t begin to capture the amazing conversations we had. The cacophony of buildings, sights, sounds and smells of China will stay with me for quite awhile. I look forward to visiting again, ready to be amazed yet again at how things will already have changed.

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