Fun on the island

The other day, we had the chance to go to Gulangyu Island. The bus ride to the ferry was interesting.

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but we made it no problem. We went into an aviary and made some friends.

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There were also some incredible views…

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along with the beautiful weather being mid 70’s with sunshine.

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All in all, it was one of the most memorable days of the trip and totally worth being a little late to group dinner, although we won’t stop blaming the taxis for that!

Palibon Leather Products and Hong Kong

This afternoon we had the pleasure of visiting with a company called Palibon Leather Products, a company which makes products such as purses, backpacks, briefcases, duffels, suitcases, and adds value in terms of embroidery and silk-screening. Their facility was in fact a miniature village, providing recreation, food, and housing to their workers when they weren’t putting in long hours in the vast sewing rooms. Meeting with the plant manager we could tell the pride he puts into his work and the pride in having us visit–we were flattered to be followed around all the visit long by an employee wielding a large camera taking snapshots everywhere we went. Nice as the visit was though, one could tell things could be better. Parts of the factory appeared disorganized and complete though the minivillage was, one could only wonder at how much the employees enjoyed their work and lives, most of them living away from their real homes in towns far away and some not expected to return after leave on the upcoming holiday. That said they make good products and do good by their workers, and we wish them the best.

With our final company meeting complete, then, it was off to Hong Kong for us! We soared through customs and had many debates over whether Hong Kong is its own country or not (it’s subject to Beijing, but has its own rulers as well; we went through customs, but didn’t get a new stamp; is it a nation but not a ‘sovereign’ nation?; one-nation two-systems, but it still has its own delegate in the UN…). Of course this can all be solved with a relevant web search, which is now easier to do because we’re beyond the Great Firewall. Looking forward to the next day and to heading home!

January 25, Train Ride to Shenzhen

After a wonderful meal for lunch, we embarked on a train to our next destination: Shenzhen. Shenzhen is another big city with the population of about 8.5 million people. We are only spending one night in Shenzhen before we leave for Hong Kong. The four hour train ride today to Shenzhen provided a scenic tour through the rural parts of China.The pictures below depict the beautiful rural landscape. In between the steep hills rest farm land,  houses and tall apartment buildings. The owners of the houses appear to not take pride in their house because of houses decaying state. The owners lack of pide of their house is most likely the result of the government owning all the land which means the owners could be relocated at anytime. Relocation of families occurs frequently in China due to their high rate of urbanization.

While looking out the train’s window, one will also notice quickly that there are no tractors in the farm fields. Instead the farmers resorted to hand tools and oxen to plow their fields. I was surprise to find that the farmers still use pre-modern farming technics when China’s urban cities are modern. One explanation I found is the local government spends their money converting rural land to an urban enviroment in order increase their chances for a promotion within the goverememt. Thus, farmers are not receiving any investments to improve China’s farming operations. 

When we arrived to the train station, we had a 20 minute hike to our hotel. We then were finally able to put our feet up and relax the rest of the night.

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Gulangyu Island: 2 days late due to technical difficulties

So, this is awkward.

I was supposed to blog 2 days ago but, due to technical difficulties (a.k.a. the inability to access reliable internet), I’m only posting this now. With that disclaimer out of the way, I will say that if you want to know how I spent Saturday, January 24th, look at Isaac Zylstra’s post. I spent the majority of the day with him and I think his blog post pretty much covers anything I would say.

But, to add my own personal flair to it, I’ll just say that Gulangyu Island near Xiamen is absolutely beautiful. Combine lots of people (admittedly, Gulangyu is quite touristy) with lots of cool shops and places to eat with great landscapes and views of the ocean and you’ve got quite a nice afternoon set up for yourself.

Spending the day with Xiao Fei, the philosophy professor who hosted us at Xiamen University, because he told us a bunch of info that only the locals would know. We also got to talk to him about his current philosophy research projects as well as his thoughts on Plato’s Republic and other philosophical classics which, although that field of study isn’t exactly my area of interest, it was great to hear and talk about.

All in all, a great day.

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A view of one of the store-filled streets

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Hanging out on the beach with Xiao Fei

January 24th – Free day in Xiamen

On Saturday, we all had free time to see the sites around Xiamen University. A large group of students decided to visit Gulangu Island, which is right off the coast. This island was originally settled by European missionaries, so when you are walking around you feel like you have been transported to Southern France or Italy. Some of the attractions on the island are: Sunlight Rock (the highest point on the island), an Organ Museum AND a Piano Museum (two completely separate museums), several beaches, and endless narrow winding streets filled with strange food and souvenir shops. I chose to visit the Piano Museum which was located in the middle of a beautiful garden. It features dozens of antique pianos which had been brought over from Europe with the missionaries (for the purpose of playing hymns in church). Each piano had a date and country of origin specified and many had an explanation of what made it unique. In between the pianos there were pictures of famous Chinese pianists who had studied music at the music school on the island. After finishing at the museum, I made my way back to the main island to get ready for group dinner.

Group dinner was held at an ocean-front seafood restaurant across the street from Xiamen University. We all tried various fish, meat, veggies, and mushrooms as we discussed our activities during the day and our readings about culture, urbanization in China, and China’s national identity. Some of us finished our day with dessert at McDonalds accompanied with a thought provoking discussion of theology.

All in all it was a good day in Xiamen.

Emily

Arrival in Xiamen!

After saying an early goodbye to Shanghai on the morning of the 21st, the group boarded a train to Xiamen! For eight hours, we slept, read, and talked on the train. Then, we took a bus to Xiamen University, where we are staying, We were greeted by our host: Professor Xiaofei Liu. He showed us to our hotel and then took a group of 9 of us to a seafood restaurant to try the local food. During dinner, he told us about growing up in China and studying in Scotland and America. We got to ask him what education looked like in China and he told us what food he missed most from America (cheeseburgers and Chipotle!). After that, we all headed to bed and prepared for class and exploration the next day.

Emily

Jeff Meitler Posting:

It is only our second day in Xiamen, but we are already falling in love with it! We are here to visit a few more interesting businesses but it turns out that Xiamen is a popular tourist attraction for the Chinese, and for good reason! We are staying at Xiamen University which has provided an interesting perspective into university life for Chinese students. English is spoken by many people and oftentimes students are eager to practice so they take every opportunity to talk to us (which is very helpful when we are lost or looking for good places to eat). Along with the university, which is actually a popular tourist destination, there are beaches, forts, gardens, foothills, and islands to be explored.

We took a break from all of the “cultural engagement” to visit a few companies in the area as well. The company we visited was owned by Americans and made web-converting process equipment sold all over the world. These expensive machines were very interesting (particularly to the engineers) and have many more uses than we ever thought could exist. The manager, John, appreciated our visit as they had never had more than a few visitors at a time before.

The biggest takeaway I had was this: Technical knowledge comes at a premium anywhere in the world, and purchasing, manufacturing, assembling, selling, and maintaining these machines takes a vast amount of technical knowledge. John described the challenges of finding quality employees even in a country as populous as China. Retaining their best employees is essential to their success, proving that the notion of China as a “cheap labor” country is no longer as true as it once was. So why are they here? The penetrate the Chinese market they need a location in China, and that is was this provides. Lower shipping costs and local customer service are invaluable assets for them.

All in all our visit was excellent. We learned about another unique business and understood (or at least tried to understand) the inner workings of machines that make products we use every day. We are now off to a few more company visits, then Hong Kong!

I have added a few pictures for your enjoyment!

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Bristol Myers Squibb

Visiting Bristol Myers Squibb was definitely an exciting experience. We left the hotel at 8am in order to get to the company at 10:30 am for our meeting. As usual, we were always a little early but that’s okay because we always get to settle down and get ourselves ready for the speakers. For my wonderful readers who may not know what Bristol Myers Squibb is or what they do, let me give you a brief overview. BMS is a pharmaceutical company that is committed to ‘developing and delivering innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.’ They focus mainly on the production of drugs for hepatitis, cardiovascular diseases, immunology and oncology. They have a joint venture with Sino-American Shanghai Squibb which is kind of like the middle man between the government and BMS. BMS owns 60% in this joint venture while SASS owns 40%. BMS is in the Bio pharma industry which combines the best of bio technology with big pharmaceutical company’s technology. I learned that it takes about 15 years to make a drug.

Once we got there, we met with the general manager of BMS who told us more about the company’s history and the process of making these drugs in China. We also spoke to the representative from SASS who explained to us that they are a company who focuses on the ‘good’, the ‘truth’ and the ‘beautiful’. He also talked about how the name squib represents good fortune. We were divided into groups of three and taken around the factory. My group was taken to the packaging facility. Going into this facility was really fascinating me because we had to go through a lot of disinfecting processes to make sure we were clean enough to be near the drugs (We even wore clean suits and shoe covers). At the facility, we saw how the drugs were been packaged using automotive methods, how they were sealed and put into the cartons with RFIS numbers to track them. I was pleased to see the order and the cleanliness if the facility and the organization in general.

Stella Footwear and crossing borders

After a long day of church and travel yesterday, we were ready to get on the road and see more of what China had to offer. After a short bus ride, we made it to Stella footwear. We met with Jason and Rock and they answered our questions, told us about the company, and gave us a tour of their factory. When we got there a lot of us (mostly the guys, since this is a footwear company after all) were a little weary about listening to someone talk about shoes for a couple hours. But after hearing their input and seeing the factory, few of us came out of the tour without smile on our faces and interesting topics to continue Perdue. At one point a couple of the engineers were even discussing how to better equip the factory with machines that would help the process go faster.
The factory tour was not as most of us expected as well. Personally I thought that most of it would be automated with few workers doing the physical labor, but I was very wrong. I think this might be the most labor intensive factory we’ve visited and I have a whole new respect for the shoe industry as a whole.
We were then treated to an amazing lunch by our Stella host and will soon be on our way to Hong Kong! I know all of us are excited for a day of exploring tomorrow. As of right now we all got through customs and will soon be on our way! Hong Kong here we come 🙂
Although I’m not ready for snow (as in sure most of us are) it will be nice to be home in just too short days.

Jess

Alibaba

Alibaba is a Chinese e-commerce company that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via internet. It also provides electronic payment services (Alipay), a shopping search engine and data-centric cloud computing services.

Jack Ma and 18 other people wanted to create an internet platform for small businesses in China to make it easy to do business anywhere. In 1999, Jack Ma founded Alibaba.com, a business-to-business portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. In 2012, two of Alibaba’s portals handled $170 billion in sales.

The market value for Alibaba is now $231 billion.

The vision for the company is to become

No. 1 data-sharing platform
Company with highest employee happiness index
life span of 102 years (102 years for them to last 3 centuries)

Alibaba have several platforms:

E-commerce:
Alibaba.com (buisiness to business)
Aliexpress.com (business to consumer)
1688.com (business – business)
Taobao.com consumer-consumer)
Tmall.com
Juhuasuan.com
Alimama.com

Aliyun.com is cloud computing and data developer.

Ant Financial includes Alipay which is similar to Paypal.

9.72 million directly created job
2.04 million indirectly created job

There are millions of people visiting Alibaba’s e-commerce platform a day and during the peak hours (3-5PM), it has been reported that about 15 million users are online.

Enough of numbers and statistics.

Our group arrived to the main campus of Alibaba in *Hangzhou. In the fancy conference room, the PR employee introduced their company and we got to ask some questions. After that, we went to the employee cafeteria where we had lunch. After lunch, we toured the campus.

Alibaba Main Campus in Hangzhou
Alibaba Main Campus in Hangzhou

Conference Room
Conference Room

Tall handsome guys (avg height 6'3")
Tall handsome guys (avg height 6’3″)

Alibaba Group is unique in that it creates platform for small-large businesses to do business with other businesses whereas eBay.com and Amazon.com mainly deals with consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer, respectively.

What does Alibaba mean? I like the way it sounds and it is easy name to remember but what does it mean? PR employee said it is a title of a very famous Chinese (traditional?) song. “Arirang” would be an Korean equivalent to “Alibaba.”

I was pleased to see creativity and energy valued in the workplace and seeing the Alibaba group steadily reaching their visions.

*Hangzhou is a 8 million people city with the highest average income of $13,600 in China (Average income of China is $3500). The city was clean and modern.