University of California, Riverside

Undergraduate Business Program

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Local business professionals in the UCR Anderson Executive MBA Program make surprising discoveries about the global economy during trip to China

(August 10, 2011)

UCR EMBA students.
East meets West: EMBA students were surprised to learn that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive in China.

While many students flocked to the beach for summer vacation, UCR executive MBA students crossed the ocean to learn about business in China.

As part of the two-year executive MBA program at the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management, students are required to participate in an international residential at the end of their first year. This year’s trip brought them to Shanghai.

“Shanghai is where the action is,” said marketing professor David W. Stewart, who joined the cohort for the week-long trip in July. “China is always in the news, and Shanghai is its financial center.”

The itinerary included stops at Hohai University, the American Chamber of Commerce and companies such as ACE, Asia Pacific Properties, Lehman Brown and Stryker, among others. Speakers from each company delivered presentations geared toward illuminating different aspects of conducting business in China. A trip to BeyondSoft, for example, covered the topic of outsourcing information technology services, while a visit to Bryan Cave centered around the theme of negotiation and Chinese labor laws.

UCR EMBA students at ACE in Shanghai.
The executive MBA students at the offices of ACE, one of their company visits during the Shanghai trip.

For those in the cohort who had never been to China before, the trip brought surprising discoveries. Where the students expected a Communist stranglehold on business, they found a bustling entrepreneurial spirit. In place of low-cost manufacturing, they found innovation.

“The media coverage of China is not an accurate portrayal,” Stewart said. “China is an economic powerhouse. They are rapidly developing. The outsourcing is not just about cheap labor.”

Gregg Porter, a Defense Imagery director for the US Department of Defense who entered the EMBA program last year, was surprised by the capitalistic aspirations of many Chinese. “A lot of the people I met want to be their own boss,” he said. “They want to have the freedom to do what they enjoy, become self-made and prosper by their own rules.”

China’s 1.3 billion customers can’t be taken lightly, said Richard Savich, the program’s academic director who also teaches courses in accounting, international management and global strategy. “China is no longer the lowest cost manufacturing country in the world, but will be the biggest consumer market in the near-term future,” he said.

Jack Gregg, the assistant dean for corporate relations and director of executive programs at the UCR business school, described a multi-faceted China. "There is the coastal modern city version with crowded streets, skyscrapers and tourists from all over the world," he said. "And there is the industrial China, with workers hot-bedding in company-owned dormitories. Either way, China is in constant change and reinvention, which creates a constant supply of opportunities." 

Through the course of the company visits and “consumer field studies,” in which the students were assigned places of interest around Shanghai to study consumer buying habits and expectations first-hand, the students found just these kinds of opportunities. For example, Porter found karaoke bars, which he was assigned to study, to be potentially lucrative. “I could actually see starting one of these places in the States and marketing to the teenage crowd,” he said.

However, the students learned that the availability of opportunities is tempered by the need for being knowledgeable of Chinese policies and the business climate. “The biggest lesson was, ‘Don’t go to China without a plan’,” said Savich.

This was one of the takeaways from the trip for EMBA student Katrina Lambert, senior partnership account manager at the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority. “Do not plan on going into China and accomplishing an American timeline or agenda—you are working on their time,” she said. “The Chinese are willing to wait a generation or two to accomplish a goal. We can’t conceive of that notion.”

Overall, the students returned Stateside with a renewed understanding of the global economy, one in which they are eager to participate. “The world continues to shrink and we would be smart to reach out and build stronger ties with China, as well as other emerging nations,” Porter said. “I think we are experiencing a very exciting time in the world of international business. I want a front row seat.”

News Contact:
Mark Manalang
Communications Manager & Editor/Writer

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