Today marked our first day in Shanghai! It was a long morning for all of us. After the overnight train from Beijing, we went straight to the hotel to drop off our luggage then straight to our business meeting with KaVo Dental group. So no time to shower and clean up which isn’t a feeling we often get in the U.S. Our KaVo visit was very interesting, at least to me it was. KaVo focuses on numerous dental services but specialize in the equipment used for applying braces as well as the production and implanting of crowns for patients teeth. They are the number one dental platform company in all of China with about a 10% market share. We had the privilege of having the President of Danaher, KaVo’s parent company, Dental Platform throughout all of China (which includes KaVo and a few other dental based companies) Yihao Zhang speak with us at the meeting. He was a very well mannered man that seemed to genuinely care about the business and the people as well as very intelligent and respectful. He was inspiring to listen to and clearly a well respected leader within the organization. Not only that but he was openly Christian, a rare sight in China especially in such a high position. His Christian beliefs and values really showed when he talked about the company. He compared the Danaher Dental Platform to the time God told Adam and Eve to go and take care of the Garden. He sees all of China as a garden and it is his job and his responsibility to improve the lives of the people here through dental hygiene and care. Another refreshing idea that was heard is how much they see their employees as appreciating assets as opposed to liabilities, an idea yet to be fully grasped here. Plus they provided us with lunch so whats not to like about KaVo?
After our meeting at KaVo, we returned to our hotels, our nice, cozy, western style hotels. I had a Carl’s Jr. burger and then we went off to the acrobat show.
The Acrobat show was truly impressive. The strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination of the athletes was incredible. I don’t even know how to explain the stunts that were done. There was a very good juggler and a woman who did aerial acrobatics high in the air from netting/ribbons. There was even some knife throwing. Our very own Elliot Hacker braved the front stage for the knife throwing stunt, blindfolded nonetheless. It took a little peer pressure from the group but he gained the confidence to volunteer. I don’t know what else to say of the show other than the fact that the all of the people who performed were very good and it was clear a lot of time and work went into the presentation. There was no photography permitted during the show so I included a blank photo for you to use your imagination.
Always looking forward to tomorrow.
Yesterday, we started off the day with breakfast at the hotel as we have done every day so far. Directly after that, we boarded the bus with all of our luggage and got ready for a day of business meetings and travel.
After our two business meetings, we went to the train station to begin our travel from Beijing to Shanghai. We had a long time to wait in the train station before the train arrived so most of us found some of our favorite American food places such as KFC McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.
When the train finally arrived, we all made a mad dash to make sure our large group all got on before it left since trains only stay at the station for short window. We were all a little surprised at how small the bunks we would be staying in were. It was quite difficult to get four large suitcases and 4 bodies in all at the same time so it took a little extra effort. When we finally got settled in we roamed the halls for a little while and even managed to cram about 10 people into one room at one point.
After a little while on the train, the lights flickered and we were brought to a halt. Someone heard there was some smoke on the train, but after waiting around for a little while hoping we wouldn’t be stuck walking, we finally started to move again. Then we stopped again, but they finally figured something out and we were on our way. We arrived safely in Shanghai.
Yesterday we met with Beckett Asia Pacific. As an assignment for this course, I had written the company briefing about Beckett Asia Pacific so i already knew that they were founded on Christian principles and values and that they are well respected by other companies for their ethics. Already aware of these details, it was so cool to hear from different members of their company about how excited they were about their faith and the many opportunities to share their faith with so many Chinese people who haven’t had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Several of the employees and shareowners at Beckett Asia Pacific use BAM, or Business As Ministry, as the guidelines by which they do business. It was really interesting at one point when one of the speakers was asked how he determines if profit or ministry is more important and he said that he has left businesses that were very profitable but werent doing well in their ministry, and in addition he has passed up on new business opportunities in large cities in China in order to choose locations where the Chinese people havent heard the Gospel before. This way a really interesting way of looking at how to live out your faith at work because most Christians try to live out their faith at work through their actions, like being honest or treating their coworkers or employees well, whereas our speaker had decided that his main goal for his businesses was to provide a way for him to minister to the Chinese people.
Today marked the official start of the “educational” portion of this trip with our first company visits. Our first meeting was at the Amway China location. As a West Michigan native I had always heard that Amway had a huge market in China so it was cool for me to actually be able to get a glimpse into that. We were supposed to meet with an Amway China representative however, due to a series of conflicts, we ended up meeting with Alan Beebe at the Amway office. Alan Beebe is the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China. Alan is from a small town in Nebraska and has done business in China for the past 25 years so it was really interesting to hear his views on the current business situation in China as well as interactions with the United States. In my opinion this was the perfect first meeting for us because it was able to set the scene for what the current business situation was in China and what problems that US based companies were facing as they tried to navigate doing business in China. There are a number of problems Alan highlighted including regulatory issues, rising labor costs, and saturated markets. The thing that stood out most to me, and was later reinforced during the Vermeer visit, was that China’s growth rate is actually slowing. The Chinese government claims the growth rate is currently about 6.5% however, most experts agree that the growth rate is somewhat lower than that. Surprisingly, 1/4 of the businesses surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce saw revenue decrease from 2014 to 2015, a fairly substantial amount of business (the 2016 survey results are coming out late this month).
On a less educational note, this evening myself and a group of students attended a night market. I’m 100% drawing a blank on the name. I’m not good with names in English let alone in Chinese. It was in a very interesting location because there was this very nice main stretch with all sorts of high end shops and then we made a turn down this alley and there were all sorts of vendors. It seemed to be a popular destination as the alley was packed! Vendors were selling a wide variety of things from souvenirs to crazy foods like squid legs and scorpions. I did try a few scorpions and I actually thought they weren’t bad! I also had an assortment of dumplings and chicken shish kabobs which were both amazing. After that we wandered around some of the nicer stores and made the subway venture back to pack and prepare for the overnight train tomorrow!
On Sunday January 8, after visiting a Chinese church, we were given about five hours to explore any part of Beijing we wished. A small group of students and I took a subway to the Olympic park. Once we arrived, we decided to purchase tickets to get tours for inside the buildings. We had no Chinese student with us to communicate with the woman selling us tickets, so we ended up buying three tickets and had no clue what the tickets gave us access to. We hoped for the best and headed to the Beijing National Aquatics Center, or the Water Cube. Once we made it inside, we were able to find the area where the pool once was. This was the pool that Michael Phelps had won 8 gold medals. Although there was no longer an actual swimming pool in place, it was cool to see where the divers and swimmers participated. Since I did swimming in high school, I found this building incredible.
Next we headed to the Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest. As we traveled through the stadium, we located different areas we were able to access with our tickets. I felt that we were going to get stopped by security at some point because we were aimlessly roaming the facility to see what else we could see. Little did I know we bought VIP access tickets! After many incredible views of the stadium, we found where our final ticket allowed us access. We stepped on an elevator, walked up a couple steps of stairs, and all of a sudden, we realized we were on the roof of the Bird’s Nest. On a the most beautiful day with sunshine and no smog, this was an incredible view. The Beijing skyline was clear and the mountains were visible in the background. None of us expected that we were buying a ticket to be on the top of an Olympic Stadium.
I learned today (January 8) that I may not speak any of the Chinese language, but traveling around China is not as intimidating as I had thought. After buying the tickets, I was worried that we were going to be ripped off and I would be disappointed. However, I was wrong and I was able to buy tickets to see one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, just by using nonverbal communication. Even though it has only been three days, I have learned a lot. I am excited to see how much else I will learn over the course.
Today, we visited Vermeer, which is a company that manufactures agricultural, drilling, and mining equipment. This visit was particularly interesting for me because last summer I was an intern for a company very similar to Vermeer.
The pieces of equipment that we saw being made were piping drills and wood chippers. The facility was small in comparison to the one that I worked at, but many of the safety and organization practices were the same.
The department that I worked with during my internship was the finishing department, so during this visit I was interested in seeing what sort of finish Vermeer puts on there products. What we found was that their choice in paint is a step ahead from many companies in this industry tend to choose. They use an environmentally friendly air-dry liquid paint for their products. This is uncommon, as many companies are using a powder coating which can be not so good for the environment.
Today was our first full day in China and it was full of places to see and things to do. we started our day at 9am when we left to take the subway down to Tiananmen square where we saw the capital building and the front of the forbidden city. Before entering the forbidden city we gathered as Prof Tubergen explained some of the city of how the city was built within three years and why things are laid out how they are and why they look the way they do. What I thought was really cool was thw fact of how they moved a 200 tonne stone slab to the city from 70 miles away by making ice roads was extremely cool.
After that we were given an hour and a half to go and explore the city ourselves, in this time I was able to explore a large amount of the city. I started by first seeing of the different thrones that the emperor had in all the different hall that were built for different purposes, though they did get kind of repetitive all were extremely beautiful. I enjoyed the imperial garden most of all however, it had some beautiful artwork as well as some unique structures that made it stand out over the rest of the city.
Once we finished in the city, and met back up with the fee people who accidentally left early we went to get lunch near the temple of heaven. the food was delicious and sitting for lunch was a great rest after all the walking. Once finished we walked through the temple of heaven area where we saw the echoeimg wall and thw mound alter, both as beautiful as all the other historical sights we’ve seen. After which we went over to the pearl market and were set free until dinner to explore and haggle for any gifts and items that caught our eye there. It was a cool place that is much different from anything that we have in the States.
Once we got back to the hotel for the day and finished dinner most of us were ready to sit back and rest ourfeet before bed. It was a great day of sightseeing and an amazing way to first our trip off.
Nathan de Haan
Organization is always the first adventure on any journey like this. For me, it starts with WordPress so that everyone else can also stay organized and in contact with family and friends. The blog site is always a challenge, as I only use the software every other year. It makes this step of the adventure that much more fun.