As we are about to embark to Shanghai tomorrow, a group of 20 of us has just ended our last night in Beijing. Although Beijing was not part of the official class and only half of us have spent the last few days here, the city has nonetheless provided us great insights and expectations to share with the rest of the class. We have spent the time climbing (too) many steep stairs along the Great Wall, walking the many streets of Beijing (whether to shop at the Silk Market road for knockoffs or to dive in and out of interesting food shops, including those selling scorpion, dog, cat and silk worm!) and absorbing what life may have been like as an emperor in the Forbidden City. We have also been in awe of the modernity of Beijing, with the many many streets of both local and western brand name shops, the countless high rises and hotels, clean city streets and upscale (as well as cheap) cocktail bars and restaurants. If only Beijing could rid itself of the heavy smog that broods permanently above the city, its beauty would shine even more.
These insights have already made many of us think about what Shanghai might be like, not only in terms of its likely modernity and international cosmopolitan flavor but also in terms its distinction as a “the pearl” of China. As our Professor and teaching assistant (a native of China) have both spoken about in class over the last several months, Shanghai has changed dramatically and rapidly every single year. At this time of our visit, we wonder what the city and China will evolve to be after we leave. Will currency controls still be a point of discussion? Or will the RMB become a global currency? Will China find ways to grow in a sustainable manner? What will oil dependency and investment in sustainable energy look like? How does the young population care for the larger and older generation? Will inequality increase more throughout the country? These topics are just some of the few we have covered in the course of the past weeks in class; they have given us terrific context for our upcoming company visits. These discussions have also sprouted questions we have for our upcoming speakers, which will include the Head of Overseas Expansion for the China Railway Construction Corporation, Head of Investment Banking Asia Pacific for Barclays and other executives from Rio Tinto, Alibaba, PwC, China Ting, Shui On and Control Risks. In smaller teams, we will also be exploring group project topics such as developing an understanding of the Chinese banking industry, education in China, the wine and luxury goods markets and the bourgeoning startup and venture capital industry. More to come from this excited group of CBS-ers! More on insights about China’s entrance into the global business and cultural arena, on Shanghai and China’s potential evolution and, of course, more on our fun shopping and unique street food experiences to come!
By Marianna Zaslavsky ’13