This past spring break, 15 students in the NC State Poole College of Management Jenkins MBA program gained first-hand insight into the culture and business practices in China during their weeklong international study tour that took them to business sites in Shanghai and Hangzhou.
Their travels were part of the “Doing Business in China” course taught by Dr. John McCreery, Poole College professor of operations and innovation management. The study tour was designed to provide the MBA students
insight into the culture and business practices in China’s growing economy, complementing classroom instruction.
“The study abroad trip allowed me to experience urban life in China while increasing my knowledge of the economic, social, environmental and political challenges that the Chinese people face every day,” says MBA candidate Laura Allen, RPh, who has a concentration in biosciences management. “We accomplished this by immersing ourselves as much as possible into the culture. That included connecting with local business owners, observing business operations, conversing with legal experts, dining with locals and visiting places of worship and recreation,” she said.
MBA candidate Gwendolyn Brantley, who also participated in the trip, said, “I didn’t expect the candid feedback (we received) from many individuals we met with, regarding the challenges of doing business in China,” she says. “Conversely, I was not surprised about the censored responses we received from others to protect their institutions from exposure to business practices we may criticize.”
Kathleen Forst, an MBA candidate graduating this spring with a concentration in finance, said she learned that various challenges must be considered as American companies engage in business with their Chinese counterparts.
“Operating a business in China can be quite challenging for a foreigner,” she said. “China has very strong protections for their interests. For example, if you want to set up a joint-venture in the country, it must be organized so that the Chinese company holds 51 percent and the foreign company controls 49 percent, ensuring the Chinese interests have majority control. However, the market presents a great opportunity for foreign companies, in size and scope. There are many opportunities that may make such an agreement worthwhile.”
Forst also noted that a glaring difference in Chinese business practices is the lack of intellectual property protection. “There has been a lot of infringement on copyrights, patents and the like,” she says. “For example, we were shown a photo of a ‘KFC’ restaurant, then were shown a photo of a ‘KFG’ restaurant, with a slightly different Colonel Sanders picture.” Such examples showed that, while intellectual property rights laws are improving, there is still a long way to go, McCreery said.
The pervasive influence of American markets in China, however, encourages a level of collaboration by which both countries can pursue business ventures together.
“I look forward to sharing my insights with my colleagues as we continue to expand our global operations,” Allen said. “If I were given the opportunity to travel back to China or elsewhere abroad on business, I would feel more confident and at ease after having had this international experience.”