Back from China… where has everybody gone?

georgia knoxBy Georgia Knox, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program.

We’re back! The transfers arrived on time, the restaurants were delectable, the sights were amazing, the accommodation was lovely – yes, that even goes for the student accommodation! – and our clothes survived the heat and humidity. Our International Business Project trip to Shanghai was one to remember, for reasons both inside and outside the classroom.

Inside the classroom, we kicked-off the subject with two days of lectures by a variety of professors with deep expertise in Chinese business and culture. One particular highlight for me was the lecture by Professor David Gosset, the director of the Euro-China Center for International and Business Relations at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai. Among other points, Professor Gosset stressed to us that China is not emerging so much as it is re-emerging after the gaps that developed between it and many western countries during the Industrial Revolution.

We took that learning along with many others from our lectures into the field where, in groups of four, we worked with six Chinese companies that are interested in entering the Australian market, in industries ranging from mining to green buildings and engineering to skin care. The primary task was to act as consultants over three days, to find out as much as we could about our companies and their market entry “problem” and to start to formulate potential solutions to their problem based on our background work. At the end of this period we presented to each other, not only on how our primary task was progressing but also on our cultural experiences with our respective companies.

And what a variety there was! For some groups, the language barrier was an issue. In this regard, the groups were very grateful for our advisors, MBA students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (our partner university for the International Business Project subject), who not only helped with interpretation but also provided invaluable insights into Chinese business and life. For other groups, there were tea ceremonies, banquets, floor walks and photo exhibitions to be completed before any business-type discussion could take place. And for others, the industry that they thought their company wanted to enter in Australia completely changed upon meeting in person!

Diversity was a theme that continued outside the classroom, with each of the 24 students involved in the trip having a unique experience, which was a product of how we chose to spend our time in China before and after the scheduled subject dates and how we chose to spend our time before and after class hours.

Several dinners and networking events were organised by the university, enabling us to meet new people (such as Ren Binyan, Vice President of Rio Tinto China and the guest speaker at our key networking event at the Radisson Blu Plaza) and also get to know those that we were working with during the International Business Project a little better.

And then there were the opportunities to get to know each other even better again at one of the best karaoke bars in China, on the observation deck of the World Financial Centre (currently the second tallest building in the world), or during Tai Chi classes… a traditional pastime that is surprisingly much harder than it looks!

So it should not have been such a surprise when I woke up on my first morning back at home and my heart jumped as I asked myself, “where has everybody gone?!”. The combination of our experiences in China both inside and outside the classroom resulted in a trip that has not only deepened our understanding and appreciation of this re-emerging world force, but has also armed us with new tools, key learnings, impressive contacts and great friendships that we can take with us through the rest of our MBA program and beyond.

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