Monday, March 15, 2010

Our First Full Day in China


Today was our first full day in China. We started with an impressive breakfast spread in the hotel restaurant on the Twentieth floor. There was a full buffet of traditional breakfast fare, plus dishes more commonly associated with dinner, such as noodles, vegetables, and sushi. It's a revolving restaurant, and the views of the city and nearby West Lake are incredible.

At 8:30 we got on the bus to Zhejiang University, founded in 1897 and now ranked as one of the top three universities in China. Zhejiang is a research university similar in size to IU-Bloomington, with 39,000 students. Professor Wei presented a lecture giving a brief overview of the Hangzhou area and the University.

The second part of his talk was "Development of local special industry as the way of poverty relief: A case of Zhejiang Province, China." Professor Wei explained that Zhejiang was largely rural and very poor prior to the economic reforms in 1979. Since then, through government investment and the private sector development of local specialty industry clusters, the province has developed the highest GDP in China. Such industries include neck ties (350 million produced in 2007; 40% of the world market), socks (10,000 factories producing 12 billion socks in 2007), eye glasses (1000 companies supplying 40% of the world market), and small commodities like toothpicks (producing 10 tons per day).

Following Professor Wei's lecture, three Management & Entrepreneurship majors from the School of Management facilitated a question and answer session with our students. Max, Julian, and Angelo all knew something about IU and Kelley, and were very interesting to talk to. The three students joined us for lunch, so we got to continue our conversations with them in a more informal setting.

After lunch we had planned to go to the hotel to change clothes, but that would have taken too much time. We headed first to the National Tea Museum. Nestled in the hills nearby, the museum was situated on beautiful grounds. Unfortunately, the museum is closed Mondays so we didn't get to go in. Instead, we went to the National Silk Museum where we had a guided tour which helped to explain how silk is made and silk's significance throughout history. Nobody expected that our tour would include a fashion show with live runway models, but indeed it did! The tour ended in the gift shop, where a persuasive saleswoman memorably taught us how to distinguish real silk products from fake ones. Several of us bought (100%) silk items to bring home before we returned to the hotel.

The students had the rest of the evening to find dinner on their own and explore Hangzhou. Shanshan, Laurie, Carly and I returned to Zhjiang to join Executive Dean Wu, Professor Wei, and School of Management staff member Chao Chen for dinner. Tomorrow we look forward to a company visit in the morning and more sight-seeing in the afternoon. We expect sunnier weather, which should be good for exploring the beauty of West Lake.

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