• A FINAL PERSPECTIVE ON CHINA

    by Julie Evans | Nov 11, 2013

    By Jorge Fernandez, Vice President of Global Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber

    Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Vice President Jorge Fernandez is on a month-long trip to China to teach at China Jiliang University and to continue building valuable business relationships with key Chinese partners. Fernandez is focusing his teachings on helping students understand how to be successful in a global marketplace, along with the attributes, attitudes, skills, resources and networks needed to drive success in today’s international environment. Each week, Fernandez is blogging about his experiences inside the classroom and sharing his insights on the ever-important Chinese market. For this final week, he shares his overall perspectives on China.

     It is hard to believe that I have almost arrived at the destination of my journey. The sun is setting over Hangzhou and soon I need to run to catch the sun as it rises over Atlanta. The anxiety and preparations for this journey are all but gone.  Typhoon Fitow will soon be just a tiny speck of memory in my rear view mirror. And yet, so much has happened.

     

    There have been many meetings with companies. Some have been new leads, others existing prospects and still others have been meetings with our own Atlanta-based companies aiming to do business in China. We have been nurturing “guanxi” with our partners, expanding our collaborative network - all in the name of telling Atlanta’s and Georgia’s story and building bridges between our markets. This is noteworthy because all of this activity took place in a province that, in 2020, is forecasted to have a GDP of one trillion USD. The province is focusing on innovation, and expects to create 5,000 leading edge technology companies following the lead of the global e-commerce giant, Alibaba. But we don’t have to wait that long. The per capita income of the Central Economic Development Zone of Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang province, already reaches 35,000USD. Atlanta’s is approximately $47,000 and an OECD standard for high income markets is anything over $15,000!

     

    Aside from meetings related to economic development, it has been so exciting to share my experience and knowledge with young minds eager to learn and seeking a window to the world. Technology has been a part of that window. Latest example: an encore Skype session, this time featuring Noah Downer from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s Office of International Affairs. Noah talked to the students about opportunities and benefits of studying abroad, while of course, promoting our own institutions of higher learning. During the last class we were able to welcome another member of our MAC Global Commerce Council, Mason Cargill from Jones Day. Mason addressed the students about Atlanta’s ongoing reach to China, which has been strong since the 1980s when famed architect John Portman pioneered the first western style hotel there, the Ritz Carlton in Shanghai. How much Shanghai has changed since then!

     

    I will always treasure the sound of the bell ringing, and seeing the multitude of students rushing from class to class. I will cherish talking about why international business is important, why strategy matters, how to approach foreign markets, what it takes to be global citizens, defining global competencies and why hiring talent matters as companies seek efficiency and innovation. Don’t get me wrong- students will always be students. There were a few “pay attention!” and “don’t do calculus homework in my class!” moments, and I even got to ‘confiscate’ cell phones in order to make a “stop texting!” point.  I’m grateful for a syllabus partially inspired by an excellent group of friends from Georgia State University, Emory University, Georgia Tech, Southern Polytechnic State University, Kennesaw State University, TMC Corporation, and members of the Chinese community in Atlanta, as well as ‘‘The New Corporate Facts of Life,’’ a book by our Global Commerce Council member, Diana Rivenburgh.  Her book (publication is in the making) addresses the forces that are changing businesses and education as well as our communities. Thank you John Parkerson, Ila Gandhi, Stella Xu, Dr Linda Sun, and Dr. Penny Prime for your academic guidance.

     

    Yet another unforgettable experience was creating a bond with the university itself. Integral to this experience was speaking at conferences on interests regarding R&D, measuring quality, and trends in clean technology - particularly in a city where all scooters must be electric, and bikes are provided by the government and free for the first hour’s rental. Of particular interest was having a dialogue about the future of education in China, including the understanding of insights into drivers for change in education, like the democratization of knowledge and access to that very same knowledge online. This is pertinent as China reflects on the merits of online education. The University also envisions agents of change such as global mobility, digital technology, and integration with industry. These are very familiar to us. We engaged other universities, holding exchange programs with Jiliang on challenges facing education. The director of Foreign Programs at Jiliang, Mr Wu Hongkuan, prioritized these challenges. Topping the list is the level of the students’ proficiency in English. They are learning the language, but they have difficulty applying the learned language in context. They are learning the English language in a vacuum without a guide for its practical use. Also of concern is the lack of direct, face-to-face instruction in the classroom, which limits participation and student engagement. Lecturing is the common practice in China’s classroom where the student’s role is to listen and memorize. Perhaps these practices stem from a structural design in the universities, as well as roots in cultural norms.

     

    My involvement in this program allowed me to explore ways to connect the university with Atlanta’s and Georgia’s institutions of higher learning. I enjoyed having casual conversations with the faculty, and sharing mutual experiences. I will miss our weekly dinners, exploring local cuisine with the foreign professors who also call China Jiliang University home. Completing my China experience has been an immersion, very unlike previous trips, with structured and orchestrated schedules. Living in the country for five weeks, I had to learn to manage on my own and learn enough Chinese to be able to buy food (and figure out how to prepare it!), find my way around town, and even learn to ask a library attendant to make copies in the printer for me because there were business centers or a concierge, as would find at a hotel.

     

    I will miss the experience of eating in the school cafeteria (well maybe not), the smiling Ni Hao Ma from the lady at the Pepsi-turned-Coca-Cola corner store, and the mad dash to get a seat when the subway door opens. I’ll even miss watching the Chinese cell phone craze, attempting to talk to the person on the other end of the line so loudly as if they need to hear them physically! Ha! And of course, how can we forget this great lesson… don’t leave home without the precautionary wad of tissue paper (a.k.a, toilet paper) just in case! For some unknown reason, and one that no one has been able to explain, there is never tissue paper in bathrooms! Why??

     

    So you may ask, was it worth it? I’ll answer with a resounding affirmation. This trip has taught me to look at China beyond its surface. There’s good- transformation. There’s bad- lack of maintenance of facilities. There’s ugly -- the unconstrained access of what money can buy without a sense of consequences, such as pollution. This trip also taught me to look at China from the trend it has set for itself and the compounded growth the country and its people are undergoing. I see this reflected in the eyes of my students. I will miss the joy on my senior students’ faces, eagerly telling me they got their first job and how I was able to influence them to seize the opportunity. They have embarked on their own journey ...and then the bell rang for the last time.

     

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  • PERSPECTIVES ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

    by Julie Evans | Nov 04, 2013

    By Jorge Fernandez, Vice President of Global Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber

    Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Vice President Jorge Fernandez is on a month-long trip to China to teach at China Jiliang University and to continue building valuable business relationships with key Chinese partners. Fernandez is focusing his teachings on helping students understand how to be successful in a global marketplace, along with the attributes, attitudes, skills, resources and networks needed to drive success in today’s international environment. Each week, Fernandez is blogging about his experiences inside the classroom and sharing his insights on the ever-important Chinese market. For week four, he shares his perspectives on economic development in China.

     This week’s installment of my conversations from China will shift topics a bit.  This week’s perspective is not so much about the university experience I have been conveying, but more on economic development objectives that I am simultaneously pursuing while here.

     

    But, before I do that, I have just a few updates from class. I have not lost any students yet!  Enrollment is still the same.  The department is awed by this. As suspected, the cartoons must be doing the trick!  Throughout this process, I have tried to expand the students’ horizons by exposing them to sources outside of the classroom. 

     

    This week, our own Henry Yu of Fifth Third Bank in Georgia and Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Council member, made a cameo appearance in class.  He talked to the students about the important role service providers play when companies invest beyond their borders and, specifically, about financial institutions.  He also talked about the relationship between supply chain investments and the banking industry. During that same class, the students were treated to an appearance by Gabriel Luis, a member of Atlanta’s famed “young and restless” demographic, which represents our cities thriving up-and-comer generation. Luis is a 27-year-old of Cuban-Chinese descent and works with a Chinese education company. He is a graduate of Emory University and now lives in Hangzhou, China. 

     

     I think students enjoyed relating to a member of the “young and restless” generation. He was a rather welcome change from their professor crowd of “the old and the tired!” One interesting part of all of this is that, just like the Global Commerce Council (GCC) Skype session we held last week, this special class took place at 10am on a Sunday morning with a great turn out!  This is what it’s all about- instilling in these young minds the need for building a collaborative global network in order to succeed. It was a lot of fun to watch the dynamics. Well, back to economic development. 

     

    So, going from class to class, I have arranged my schedule to allow time off campus so I can pursue leads and seek to maintain “guanxi” with institutions and companies we have visited on previous trips to China.  Some of this “guanxi” was started by other members of MAC’s staff, others by other GCC members traveling through China.  Additionally, partners such as the City of Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and Georgia Power were involved.

     

    All I am doing is carrying the torch this time for our partners and associates to keep the momentum going on this ongoing process of recruitment. As such, I carried myself onto a two-hour flight to Beijing to meet with several prospects we have been nurturing for a while, hoping to move the ball forward a few yards in order to get to the goal of landing these company in Atlanta. 

     I also met with the China Center for the Promotion and Development of SMEs (small to mid-sized enterprises), an association designed to assist Chinese SMEs grow in international markets.  This organization serves as a great source of leads and as a network for our companies that might want to explore the Chinese market. Their mission is very similar to that of MAC’s.

     

     In Beijing, I also joined a successful Atlanta-based company negotiating a deal with a Chinese company.  I hope I was part of a successful bid!  We should know soon.  It was fun and informative to be part of this process. I appreciate the opportunity.

     

    Time went quickly.  On a clear, blue-sky Saturday morning in Beijing, I embarked on a six-hour trip back ‘home’ on China’s CRH bullet train – a journey that just a few years back could have taken 22 hours! We traversed the mileage at just over 400km/hr, crossing a vast country-side territory and stopping in five cities in between.  The trip allowed me to witness remnants of old rural China mixed with glittering city skylines of tertiary cities that would dwarf our own in Atlanta.  These cities are interlaced with eight line super highways and a string of cell towers between them.  I never had a dropped call or internet service interruption on the entire journey. What a transformation in a few years, albeit at a price. 

     

    No sooner had we departed Beijing, when the blue skies gave way to visions of the sun attempting to peek through the over-arching haze and smog. This being the topic in the news every day, smog overtakes cities, choking its population.  Cleaning the air will be a slow process, but awareness and a mandate to eliminate dependency on coal and fossil fuel is driving action from the government and being demanded by the people. I was glad to pull into the Hangzhou East station where the sky was blue again.

     

    Back at ‘home’ I reacquainted with old friends at the Zhejiang China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) who had visited Atlanta on several occasions.  MAC has a cooperation agreement with them.  This organization graciously hosted Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed during his visit to Hangzhou in 2012.  In fact, the Zhejiang CCPIT was instrumental, in conjunction with Southern Polytechnic State University in Atlanta, with my involvement at Jiliang University. 

     

    While being here I have done my part to deliver on our MAC Forward Atlanta strategy of continuing our recruitment efforts and connecting with innovation centers by meeting with several Hangzhou companies that want to know about Atlanta.  I was particularly impressed by “Smart City,” an intelligent internet industrial park dedicated to an innovation platform for cloud computing and cluster infrastructure- supporting industry. This is being developed in partnership with a major U..S technology company. 

     I also had the opportunity to conduct a business seminar at the Hangzhou Chamber of Commerce about our story on Atlanta and meet with local companies that already call Atlanta home.  UN Forklift, for example, which has its U.S. headquarters  in McDonough in Henry County, and with Chinese organizations such as the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA), a China Central Government agency in Gwinnett County. Looking ahead, I am sure I will enjoy the opportunity to share with the Atlanta Ballet, which will be performing at the Chinese Opera Theater in Beijing the first week of November.  What a great way to showcase our home city!  By the way, we were on local TV news as the twin pandas at the Atlanta Zoo celebrated their 100 days right-of-passage ceremony!

     I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here and I don’t take it for granted. That is why, notwithstanding my new-found enjoyment of sharing my business experience with these young students, delivering on a “guanxi”  ROI about growing our Chinese business connections with Atlanta’s industry clusters is forefront in my routine while in China. In the meantime, back to the classroom!

     

     

     

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  • Perspectives on a Course – China Jiliang University

    by Julie Evans | Oct 25, 2013

    By Jorge Fernandez, Vice President of Global Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber

    Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Vice President Jorge Fernandez is on a month-long trip to China to teach at China Jiliang University and to continue building valuable business relationships with key Chinese partners. Fernandez is focusing his teachings on helping students understand how to be successful in a global marketplace, along with the attributes, attitudes, skills, resources and networks needed to drive success in today’s international environment. Each week, Fernandez is blogging about his experiences inside the classroom and sharing his insights on the ever-important Chinese market. For week three, he shares his perspectives on the course he is teaching.

     In the last few installments of this blog, I have tried to convey my perspectives on the university, the classroom environment, and the students.  I also shared thoughts on why it is essential to maintain “guanxi” in this important market, if we are serious about reaping our return on investment in China.

    I have also alluded to why connections to businesses, to institutions of higher learning, and to telling our story about Atlanta right here in China, are essential to creating jobs through investments and trade -  our topmost objective.  Lastly, let’s not forget our typhoon friend - Fitow!

     Well, three weeks have gone by and I guess by now you are probably wondering what approach I have strived to use in class.  Thus, I have titled the theme of this segment: “Perspectives on a course.”

      Let’s start with the title of the course:  “Developing Frontiers of the International Trade: A Flight Plan for International Business Development”.  Yes a “flight plan.” You just cannot take away the pilot in me!  Now, realize that in the short time I will be here, it is unrealistic to expect that students will walk away as experts on international business. So the objective is much more humble.  What I hope is for the students to simply reach awareness on issues that are important in being successful in the global environment, particularly while conducting business in the United States.

     I want to convey the intrinsic value of certain factors such as skills, attitudes, competencies, and collaborative networks that are essential to drive success in a global marketplace. Likewise, it is important for these young students to know why understanding international business, and the factors that drive it, is essential not only for corporations, but for the people that work at corporations.  After all, companies are made up of us - people.

     I want to send the students on a successful path to global citizenship propelled by the global economy we all live in.  After all, these students are already engaged.  They are adept at the practice of the world-wide online network that they engage in on a daily basis through the internet.  By definition, the medium of the “www” is much the same as the global economy that they will face soon as they embark on a search for jobs.

     The brief classroom “flight plan” will lead us to discussions about why international business matters to them and to companies. We are discussing the importance of having a strategic management plan to leverage resources, both human and financial, while attempting to thwart ensuing risks that will come along the way.  We will look at dynamics that influence decisions on going abroad as well as the vital role culture plays in the process.  Our destination is an arrival at the awareness I mentioned before, of knowing what it takes to achieve success in a foreign environment while understanding the importance of grasping the diversity of the world. 

     So far so good!  I am getting positive feedback from enthusiastic students and class enrollment has not dwindled!  Perhaps they keep coming back because of the funky cartoons I have interjected throughout my otherwise business-like Power Point-  to help navigate the language challenges, or the Skype session we had at 9pm (because of the time difference) with the members of Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Council, or perhaps they are simply truly interested.

     The fact remains that, yes, I still have a challenging 100 souls in class.  My hope is to light an influence now and see the ROI the next time we all meet a Chinese delegation coming through Atlanta or a group of executives from Chinese corporations - albeit, judging from the students ages, it will be a while. But remember, before you think I am too optimistic, we are in the land of Confucius and he has been known to say that a path on a journey starts with the very first step.  So there you go, my students have taken the first step...and I am satisfied.

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  • Perspectives from a Classroom – CHINA JILIANG UNIVERSITY

    by Julie Evans | Oct 18, 2013

    By Jorge Fernandez, Vice President of Global Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber

    Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Vice President Jorge Fernandez is on a month-long trip to China to teach at China Jiliang University and to continue building valuable business relationships with key Chinese partners. Fernandez is focusing his teachings on helping students understand how to be successful in a global marketplace, along with the attributes, attitudes, skills, resources and networks needed to drive success in today’s international environment. Each week, Fernandez is blogging about his experiences inside the classroom and sharing his insights on the ever-important Chinese market. For week two, he shares his perspectives on a typical university classroom in China.



    What a difference one day makes!  From a lifeless, dark, wet campus to a vibrant, dynamic and bright one. Two catalysts were responsible for the transformation.  First, Typhoon Fitow departed the region and classes resumed from a week-long break.  As my anxiety built for the first class, I started my trek from my “dorm” to the proper building were classes are held for the Management and Economic School.  I reached the building right at the scheduled time for first to second period change. The hallways were swarming with students like nothing I have ever seen.  Tightly close to each other,  rushing students were six to seven abreast and as far as I could see….but then I realized I am in China and amongst its 1.3 billion people.  As I finally made it into classroom C502 expecting to see 30-40 students, the director of the program approached me and explained that he underestimated, and that the class roster showed 100! I gasped, composed myself elegantly and pretended all was cool. I had to quickly, once again, revert to plan B and change my approach to my new pedagogic experience. After my ‘Zaochen hao’, otherwise known as good morning (I hope), the journey started. 

    The typical profile of the class is as follows: half males and half females,  average age 21-22, under-graduate seniors, they come from all parts of China, and all are business students.  None have travelled abroad and most are shy in venturing into speaking English, nevertheless they appear to understand. I guess I will get a clearer picture of language comprehension after the final exam!  They all have aspirations, want to go into graduate school, then into business and they want to travel. They are smart, very respectful, and observant.  They call me teacher.   I just cannot stop wondering what changes await China when these young people take the reins of their country.

    As I proceeded with the lesson, I panned my vision across the room.  I noticed many were playing with their phones.  They are bored, I thought, or perhaps my messaging is not coming through.  Then I realized, no, they are taking pictures of the Power Point presentation and of my scribbles on the board.  Yes, Power Point presentation.  I decided I was not going to lecture, but use bullet points to simplify the messaging and reinforce their minds as they subconsciously translate from English to Chinese. I also decided to pepper the class with numerous cartoons depicting the concepts I strive to convey.  It has worked well.  They liked it.  In my planning I assumed students were not going to challenge, ask questions, or display an interactive approach.  In fear I might be generalizing, my assumption was based on the concept that in Confucian societies, such as China’s, relationships are central. Particularly in duties that arise from a junior in relation to elders and teachers.  Since I am both, I expected a uninterrupted behavior without interaction in class.  I was proven right.  For one that is known to talk through any presentation, for the first time, time went slowly!  The clock hit 11:30 a.m. and I had completed all of my lesson plan.

    As I was preparing to depart, several students approached me to tell me they listened carefully and really enjoyed the class. This made my day, albeit I was all covered in old-fashioned white chalk!

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  • Building “Guanxi” At China Jiliang University

    by Julie Evans | Oct 11, 2013

    By Jorge Fernandez, Vice President of Global Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber

    On Oct. 8, 2013, Metro Atlanta Chamber Global Commerce Vice President Jorge Fernandez embarked on a month-long trip to China to teach at China Jiliang University and to continue building valuable business relationships with key Chinese partners. Fernandez will focus his teachings on how to be successful in a global marketplace, along with the attributes, attitudes, skills, resources and networks needed to drive success in today’s international environment. Each week, Fernandez will blog about his experiences inside the classroom and share his insights on the ever-important Chinese market.

    Well, I’ve made it to the other side of the world – literally. Twelve time zones apart from home to be exact! I arrived in Hangzhou, China along with Typhoon Fitow, whose rain made our flight circle over Hangzhou rather lengthy.  I later found out Fitow has been the biggest typhoon to hit the east coast of China since the 1950’s.

     After the customary gymnastics of attempting to get to the bags and juggling multiple baggage carts, I finally made it to my destination- China Jiliang University. As much as I thought I had prepared for this 30-day stay, no sooner had I checked into my room than long-forgotten memories of freshman college days, checking into the dorms for the first time, flashed in my mind. The realization settled in that my accommodation was no normal hotel, it is a university after all, though not shabby. Questions came hastily to mind - where are the towels? where is the soap? and, yes, where is the toilet paper?!   After quick thinking, I ran downstairs and, through the wonder of a dictionary and technology, I was successful in communicating my basic needs to the lonely, young clerk at registration. The university was at skeleton staff, for not only had I arrived with Fitow at my heels, but also during a week-long national holiday celebrating the People’s Republic of China’s 64th anniversary. 

    Finally, after 32 hours leaving the comfort of Midtown, I successfully hit the sack.  Over the next day students trickled back from various corners of the country with fading memories of their week-long vacation…unfortunately Fitow refused to leave us alone!

    So, what is my trip all about?  The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) has been targeting China for the last few years for obvious reasons related to the global economy and the role China plays in the world marketplace. Whether it is for the attraction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), or as a destination for our Atlanta-based companies to find business opportunities, China remains a priority market for the Atlanta region and for Georgia. Multiple examples exist of raising awareness of Atlanta in China – a product of the collective efforts of many organizations and leaders.  Also worth noting - China tourism into Georgia has one of the highest growth rates. There are more than 25 Chinese companies that call Atlanta home, and several of our companies have been growing steadily in the vast Chinese market.

    Central to maintaining this growing awareness, is preserving relationships and trust so well characterized by the Chinese concept of “guanxi,” which describes the careful and consistent relationship and connection  building that is central to successful business in China.

     My immersion into the Chinese market this time is about maintenance of our hard-earned “guanxi” with multiple companies, prospects and organizations. 

    However, this immersion is also about something new for MAC.  This is also about reaching out to institutions of higher learning in key foreign markets from the purview of the business community in metro Atlanta.   We are clear that we are building on the many existing successes of our colleges and universities who have countless connections to universities in all corners of the globe. What better way to materialize our goals in China than by being among one of these institutions.  

    With this in mind, I now have the opportunity to share with faculty, R & D centers and students, the story of Atlanta.  This is also a new destination for me.   In the process, we are strengthening the established relationship with the Hangzhou Chamber and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) by sharing knowledge about what it takes to succeed in the U.S. marketplace.

    From a personal perspective, I have the privilege of being able to do my part as an economic citizen diplomat for our region by helping to grow our region’s  “guanxi “ while positioning conditions for job creation on both sides of the ocean.

    Home for me for the next four weeks is China Jiliang University (CJLU), which is located in beautiful Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province, China.  Jiliang University has been a well-known university for ‘metrology’ (the science of measurement) since its establishment in 1978.  It has been the only university qualified to award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the fields of Quality Supervision and Inspection in China. It is recognized as the top university in China for Metrology, Quality Engineering, Quality Supervision, and Standardization. While engineering is the focus, CJLU is, however, a comprehensive university that offers many disciplines, including engineering, science, management, law, literature, economics, medicine, and philosophy.  It has 18 colleges, 44 majors and about 19,000 full-time students.  It also has a research center for the humanities and social sciences, eight top disciplines, and 16 master’s programs, including two engineering programs.

    I want to take this opportunity to thank those that have helped me prepare the flight plan for this journey. Those include members of our MAC Global Commerce Council, our partners at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, members of the Chinese business community in Atlanta, students and faculty at Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Southern Polytechnic State University, Kennesaw State University, and nine students from Jiliang University currently studying at SPSU - and of course MAC and my wife who put up with me as I prepared to embark on this cause.

    Stay tuned next for insights in a Chinese classroom.

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