Dr. Gerald Weinstein, Chair of Accountancy
What were some of the highlights of your trip to China this past summer?
There were so many. In Beijing we went to Tiananmen Square and saw Mao lying in state. We went to the Temple of Heaven, a wonderful park filled with people singing, dancing and having fun, and the imposing Forbidden City. We scaled the Great Wall and spent a night at a local farmer’s home. In Yunnan Province, following an overnight 12 hour train ride none of us will ever forget, the World Heritage Site of Lijiang was impressive as were hikes at the Shibaoshan Grottoes and Changshun Mountain, and the city of Dali. We had only one day in Shanghai but wished we could have stayed there much longer.
How different is the food compared to America?
Aside from very unusual/odd dishes like fried centipedes, the thousand year old egg, yak meat (and yak yogurt) the food we ate was not too dissimilar from Chinese food served in the US. I am a vegetarian and there was a multitude of dishes for me wherever we went. Broccoli, bok choy, green beans, tofu, and rice at nearly every lunch and dinner. One major difference – there is not a good refrigeration system in many places so most of the food we ate was freshly picked (not “processed”) and prepared. You can taste that difference.
What are some cultural specific things that you noticed?
The Chinese people we met (obviously an insignificant number of the 1.4 billion who are there) struck me as being a peaceful people. I got the sense that if they had never made contact with westerners they would be living a very safe, calm existence. They have a good sense of their own history but not much of the rest of the world. We know there are pockets of unrest (e.g., Tibet and Uyghur) but we were kept clear of them.
The people in the rural areas seem to do much farming as they have for centuries. We observed a lot of people doing manual labor in the fields and carrying goods to market on over packed bicycles or on their backs. In Yunnan we visited the Nature Conservancy which is charged with eco-preservation and is encouraging sustainability through the use of biogas and solar power.
Tea! A big focus of our trip to Yunnan was the Tea and Horse Caravan Trail which goes through the Province. It was used for centuries to take tea to Tibet and bring horses to China. We visited the National Tea Research Center in Kunming and tasted the finest tea available, Pu’er. Aged 18 years, a wheel of pressed tea weighing a few pounds sells for about $400.
We stayed in hotels that were clean, but in some cases rudimentary. Some had no screens on the windows (mosquito nets on the beds), bare unfinished wood floors, no TV – but wireless service was available! Also, even in the rural areas, cell phones were ubiquitous.
What was your home stay experience like?
The family was wonderful. We helped make dinner (wok-prepared dumplings among other dishes) and got a demonstration/lesson in Chinese paper-cutting. The beds took some getting used to as the Chinese sleep on hard beds, not unlike a board. The next morning we toured the farm fields, irrigated and very green, where corn was the major crop.
Do you think business students should study Asia? Why?
Absolutely! Asia is an important element in the world’s economy because of the huge population and the growth of disposable income people are experiencing. I met with an ’02 JCU Management grad, a former student, who had just been transferred there by his company, Cintas. He explained the depth of the market and the opportunities for growth that exist there. He also said that the opportunity to have success there is dependent on acting quickly. The Chinese will see something that works and copy it for their own. Having some facility with the language would be a great way to make an impression in an interview with a firm with operations or aspirations there.