Posted by Rachel Johnson on
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Our visit to the Xi’an Hi-Tech Park was another public
tour style view into Chinese business. While they had A/C, they did not have
the candor of say, VanceInfo, or the usefulness of the U.S. Embassy
presentation. What they provide most of all is a view into how China wants
others from the outside to see itself, and how it chooses to present itself.
The layout of the demonstration area that is in a
building, which is apparently dedicated entirely to the purpose of attracting
businesses to Xi’an if the building directory can be believed, was similar to
ENN’s in that it told the great and wonderful history of the Xi’an Hi-Tech
Park. I’m sure there is some value to always painting a rosy picture to
outsiders looking in, but it is to be hoped that they are at least honest
amongst themselves in their own planning sessions about what challenges they
The primary focus of the presentation was about how Xi’an’s
infrastructure was being improved to the point that it was just as desirable as
a coastal city, while still having much lower costs and much lower turnover
rates, especially as compared with a place like Shenzhen. The speaker was very
much speaking the party line, and it reminded me of the professor from the
University. The only reason the government has so much control and influence in
these ventures is that people really seem to believe it’s working, despite the
immense environmental degradation that rapid economic growth has wrought, as
well as the clear disparity between the haves and the have-nots in society. What
the government has done is provide them hope for the future – and any
government who manages to keep the populace hopeful for future prospects does
not have to worry about losing power.
Another thing that I found interesting, both in this
visit and throughout the trip, is the focus that the Chinese are putting on
high-value added services and goods. I have read some executives’ words in
interviews saying that we’re only sending low-end goods abroad, and that the
U.S. will continue to be a global center for innovation and high-tech goods.
While I do not doubt this is partially true, since that is something we have
experience with and are good at, this is precisely the area that we should
realize China wants. The space station, the work on aerospace technology to
build large places, micro-processing plant – if anyone still really believes
that the U.S. can continue to be world leader and innovator in high-tech
products and happily continue to dump only low-value added work to the
developing world, they’re very much mistaken. Many of these countries have the
hope of truly competing, and gaining for themselves the kind of respect and
admiration we have garnered in our businesses in the past century, and it
shouldn’t be at all surprising that this is so.
Another interesting note from the presentation was the
volume of government sponsored educational institutions. While I’m sure they’re
doing very good work in training the populace for gainful employment, I can’t
imagine the professors enjoy any sort of actual freedom to teach as they like,
when I can’t even access my own blog from here.
rather shocking moment occurred partway through the Q&A with our hostess.
She answered her phone in the middle of our professor’s question, and proceeded
to speak for a good 30-40 seconds on her phone. That would be the height of
rudeness in the U.S. We have spent a lot of time learning about Chinese
business culture and what is acceptable or unacceptable and how to give and
receive business cards properly – hopefully Chinese businesspeople do the same
thing and realize that cutting someone off in the middle of a question and
treating them as though their question is a far less importance than a phone
call would be a serious faux pas to make.