North Park University Group Visits China, Meets Business and Education Leaders

SBNM China Tour
During their visit, the North Park University group toured an equipment assembly building at Baiyun Power Group, Guangzhou. (Photo provided by Jimmie Alford)

Spring break trip promotes 2011 agreements with Chinese universities

CHICAGO (March 30, 2012) – A group representing North Park University's School of Business and Nonprofit Management (SBNM) visited China this month to observe its rapidly growing economy, and to further the University's partnership agreements with one of five Chinese universities. The 15 University students, faculty, and alumni who made the 10-day trip learned first-hand about the country's emerging nonprofit sector, rapid business growth in the country, and China's culture.

The trip provided some surprises for the University group. Fran Caan, Evanston, Ill., said she was surprised by "the incredible wealth in major cities." Hong Kong was "gi-normous," said MBA student Gerardo Soto. "There were high rises all over the place. I didn't see one single-family home. There's a great deal of wealth. High-fashion was available there more than in Paris," he said, noting that most signs were in English as well as Mandarin.

An eye-opener for Caan, executive director of an educational foundation, was the realization that the United States is not the "center of the universe," and that U.S. global power has a strong competitor in China. Both she and Soto were impressed by the friendliness and kindness of the Chinese people.

"I wanted to see first-hand what it was all about. It was an eye-opening experience and it puts everything else in perspective," said Soto, who will graduate this year with a double degree, human resource management and a master of business administration.

Dr. Wesley E. Lindahl, SBNM professor and dean, and Dr. Chris Nicholson, director of graduate admissions and SBNM adjunct instructor, led the North Park delegation. The China trip was significant because the country represents a huge part of the world economy, Lindahl said. "Here are 1.3 billion people in China and the gross domestic product has grown at around 10 percent annually over the past decade. The economy may surpass the U.S. economy in the coming years. Further, the emergence of the voluntary (non-government) sector is something that our nonprofit students and faculty are very interested in. We may be at the start of great change in China’s civil society."

"Getting off the plane and seeing a huge billboard indicating 'The 21st Century is the Asian Century' helps put into perspective the growing prominence of Asia as the center for global business," said Nicholson. Another take-away from the China trip was "learning how Hong Kong markets itself to attract business and investment, and the keen competition among cities/regions in Asia to attract economic investment," Nicholson added.

The group visited Hong Kong for the first five days and then went to Guangzhou for the remainder of the visit. Visits in Hong Kong included sessions with the Bank of Montreal (BMO) branch office, InvestHK, HarbourVest Partners Ltd., and United Airlines branch office. The visits in Guangzhou included Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong Guangxin Holdings Group, Ltd., Healthy Household Limited, Baiyun Power Group, and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Lindahl said.

At the Guangdong Guangxin Holdings Group, Li Cheng, board chair, spoke about the firm's business strategy, Lindahl said. The group was listed 146th among China’s Fortune 500 in 2011 and ranked 12th of Top 500 Enterprise of Guangdong Province.

The Baiyun Power Group visit included a factory tour of the equipment assembly building. Baiyun’s history started in 1960 as the Hu family blacksmith business. Today it is an example of a private firm that has grown to be in the Top 500 in the China manufacturing sector. Xie Xiao Hua, vice president, spoke to the group and answered questions about what it is like to be in business in China.

At a lunch provided by Jainjun Sun, dean of the MBA program at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, the North Park delegation met with MBA students from the school.

In 2011, the North Park University leaders signed bilateral cooperation agreements with leaders of five Chinese universities. The agreements are with Beijing Union University (College of Arts and Sciences), Beijing; Jianwen University, Yantai; Anhui University of Finance and Economics, Bengbu City; Guangdong University of Foreign Studies; and Leshan Normal University, Leshan. The agreements established cross-cultural learning and research opportunities for students and faculty of the universities. They also promote student and faculty exchange. Lindahl said he would like to have further exchange of faculty with the Chinese schools, and to have Chinese students study at North Park University.

Dr. Wesley E. Lindahl contributed to this report.

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