Sixteen Mason undergraduate students and a few students from James Madison and Georgetown, who asked to join our group, spent most of the summer in Beijing. The first five weeks were spent studying the Chinese language and culture at the Beijing Language and Culture University. This was followed by two weeks of touring a diverse group of leading Chinese companies including for example automobile and computer manufacturers, a beer maker, a biomedical company that manufactures test kits for viruses such as HIV, and a valve manufacturer that is transforming itself into a provider of home and office heating and air conditioning systems powered by alternative energy. We focused on learning about the strategies for global business that these businesses were employing.
It was a very rewarding experience to accompany these students on the company visits and see them in action. Of course they consumed every thing that we were presented with, asked inciteful questions that demonstrated their understanding of the local environment, and engaged our hosts in lively conversations. I was impressed with how quickly my tour-mates grasped the underlying strategies that were being employed. It was clear that my tour-mates also recognized that these were in many ways “model” companies that had successfully overcome many obstacles to get where they were and that these same obstacles were yet to be faced by the vast majority of companies that have yet to globalize.
There were many highlights but one that I will always remember was the “mixer” sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing. This regular event brings togethers reps from American companies with business in China. The Mason Reps showed up in business attire and fanned out ready to conquer. In the bus on the way back to the dorm they were comparing notes and strategizing on next steps about everything from summer jobs to venture-backed startups. If you are thinking of expanding to China, I know where you can find fully qualified VPs of marketing and sales! Great job by Mason’s ambassadors.