After sharing many experiences together, it was hard to say good bye to our host families. There is no better way than living with a family to learn so much about a country so quickly. We are grateful to our partner school for their wonderful hospitality, as always!
Toothbrushes have been produced in Yangzhou for over 100 years with production dramatically increasing after the opening up of the Chinese economy to the world after 1978. During our up-close tour of the massive production facility, we learned about the company’s history including connections to the US such as a period of joint venture with Colgate.
Like many large companies in China, the company provides housing and other facilities for their employees to enjoy. Our company translator, a recent graduate of university in Canada, was excited to show us around the private gardens curated and designed by the company owner.
Our partner school created several opportunities for students and faculty to share some traditional Chinese arts with us. From calligraphy and painting to Tai Chi and Lion Dances, trying out some of the ancient traditions on Yangzhou allowed us both to learn about these aspects of culture and to appreciate the tremendous skill and training that goes into excelling in these fields.
As part of our course, students are using design-thinking to create a pitch for a business idea capturing an opportunity connected to the US and China. As part of this project, students conducted interviews of their peers from our partner school to try to better understand the Chinese consumer market.
As part of our visit the the elementary school at our partner school in Yangzhou, we brought post cards written by Collegiate first grade students to share with students. We asked the questions from our first graders and took some videos to take home and share back with Collegiate students.
As a way to get to know both our student host partners and the city of Yangzhou, our partner school organized a scavenger hunt through the old part of the city. Students worked in teams and captured photos of their teams completing challenges. Although the weather was rainy and unseasonably cold, we enjoyed getting to know each other better and learning more about the beautiful city of Yangzhou.
Traveling through China is perhaps one of the best ways to get to know life outside of the big international cities. After traveling by subway in Shanghai, we took the train, a school bus and finally a ferry across the river to get to the beautiful city of Yangzhou.
When we visited the Port of Virginia earlier this semester, we learned that one of the largest imports to Virginia from Asia is cars. We wanted to understand this industry a little more in-depth so we were lucky enough to be able to arrange a tour of a Volkswagen factory outside of Shanghai. The facility is a joint-venture between Volkswagen and a Chinese automobile company. The up-close tour through the different manufacturing buildings was very eye-opening, and gave us insight into the robotics and automation used in the industry. Throughout this course we have tried to focus on a few products that involve Virginia and China and work to understand them from all angles. After seeing all the cars off-loaded in Norfolk, it was great to see the production side – and to learn more about the role joint ventures play in international trade.
As part of our study of the economic relationship between Virginia and China and different businesses that connect the two, we met with two business leaders in Shanghai. The first was Collegiate parent, Mr. James Xu (Vivian’s Dad), who runs a company that exports hardwood from Virginia and other parts of North America into China for furniture and other household uses. Hearing first hand about the business model as well as the challenges and opportunities was such a great learning experience.
Our second business model exploration began in Richmond with a visit to WestRock, the global packaging company whose consumer packaging is headquartered in Richmond. During that visit we learned about the Asia Pacific operations within the company, and during our visit to the Shanghai office we got see the business in action and hear from Mr John Huang, the head of sales for WestRock in China. He also shared his insights about how to best do business in China for an American-based company.