Day 6 – Swissnex: Our outpost in China

On our last day in Shanghai we went to visit Swissnex.

Many people in Switzerland may have never heard of Swissnex but Swissnex does actually an import job for Switzerland abroad. Swissnex is a public-private venture and has offices in Boston, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Bangalore and Shanghai and many science counselor locations all around the world. They work together with the Science, Education and Technology Section in the Embassy of Switzerland in China and regional consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Their goal is to promote Switzerland’s excellence as one of the world’s leading countries in the fields of innovation, research, technology and higher education, to connect academia and business and to facilitate cooperation between, in this case, China and Switzerland. Along with individual science and technology counselors around the world, they work on behalf of Switzerland to expand education, research, and innovation. Vital financial support is provided by donors and sponsors for the respective country of each outpost. In other words, without Swissnex many people in China may not know Switzerland.

Once we arrived, we received a warm welcome from Isabel Götz, General Manager, ad intermin of Swissnex. The first speaker was Erwin Lüthi, Deputy Consul General of Switzerland. He gave us an understanding of what the Consulate of Switzerland is doing in China and why a Consulate is important next to an Embassy. Isabel Götz introduced us to Swissnex and gave us a deeper understanding of their work and operation in China in the second speech. At the Q&A she was able to answer a lot of our questions regarding the life here in Shanghai. For example, she always has to think twice whether she really wants to lower the window shutter on a sunny day as it might lead here Chinese neighbors to hang out their clothes on it.

Leo Peng, Promotion Officer, Swiss Business Hub Shanghai, explained us the function and work of Swiss Business Hub China. The Swiss Business Hub China is a part of the Embassy in Switzerland the representative of the official international trade and investment promotion agency Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE). It is responsible for implementing Swiss export strategies in China and for promoting Switzerland as a business location. On the one hand, they inform Chinese companies about the key advantages of Switzerland as a business and investment location. On the other hand, they are the key contact point for Swiss SMEs looking for export opportunities in the Chinese market.

The last presentation of the morning was, in our opinion, the highlight. Michael Lehmann, Managing Director of Selective International Management [SIM], introduced us to services of his company. SIM is a Swiss consultancy with its main operations in Shanghai providing support to European and Chinese Companies. They provide transparent and pragmatic professional solutions to their clients with their internal and external experts through Management Consulting, Corporate Services and Project Management. One of their key activities is the yearly Swiss Week which is the only platform in China for Swiss companies to promote their products directly to the public. On the second part of his speech he illustrated in a fun way his own developed strategy of how you should start a business in China and what you should be aware of the differences in culture and life in China.

After the four interesting presentations, we had lunch at a nearby by Japanese restaurant together with some of the speakers and people of Swissnex. After this it was time to say goodbye to Isabel Götz and her team and also to Shanghai.

Our journey went on to Hong Kong where we happily arrived in the evening by plane.

Group Shanghai
André Birri, Floriane Bopp, Sergio Galli, Philemon Gschwend, Richard Lauper

Day 5 – Ship Ahoy

On the fifth day, our program was slightly different compared to the previous days. Instead of visiting companies, participating in exciting presentations, exploring different parts of cities and cultures, or spending the evening at the local Swiss embassy, we were allowed to visit the port of Shanghai – by now the biggest port of the World!
After a good night’s rest from the previous evening, we were picked up at the hotel to be driven to the port. As we later were told the port of Shanghai is not a consecutive site but rather split up in several unique sites that were located around the Shanghai area. Indeed, we were brought to the newest expansion of Shanghai port infrastructure – Yangshan Port. Located on an island surrounded by 15-meter deep water to allow even the biggest of all transport ships to dock and load their precious goods. To get there we were heading southwards to the ocean right through the city of Shanghai. This journey once again enabled us to try to grasp the unbelievable vastness and growth of this city or rather China as a whole. Grasping the sheer speed at which China grows (or has grown so far) became even harder once we realized that the by fog engulfed bridge we were driving on was not simple any bridge. It was a 32.5-kilometer-long bridge right through the ocean that connected the main land with Yangshan Port. This alone already made an impressive achievement (2x the length of the Gotthard tunnel), but the fact that it was built in only 2 years (!) finally made most of us realize the true commitment China invests in its growth.

The Yangshan Deepwater Port Project commenced in June 2005 and Phase I Terminal put into operation already at the end of 2005. Yangshan Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III Terminal were fully completed in 11 years. For the time being, the three terminals totally have a 5.6 kilometers quay length and equip 16 berths. To further consolidate and improve the status of Yangshan Phase IV Terminal began construction in 2014. Planned is a fully automatic terminal with five 50 thousand tons container vessel berths, two 70 thousand tons berth, one working vessel berth and other facilities. It will be put into operation at the end of 2017. In the near future, there are almost no people planned in the dock site of Phase IV Terminal as all the operation will be intelligent and automatic. The group was astonished by the size, the efficiency and the huge numbers of containers. Finally, our bus driver was able to drive us directly through the port between narrow corridors and in the midst of thousands of containers – an impressive sight indeed.

After a delicious meal we looked forward to spend the rest of the afternoon back in the downtown of Shanghai. Unfortunately, we had to realize that our driver was not able to meaningfully increase his driving skills over night as most of us were suddenly kicked out of their sleep at a particularly bumpy section of the road. After this shock we were free to spend the afternoon individually. Many small groups formed and discovered Shanghai on their own for the rest of the day and night.

Group Shanghai

André Birri, Floriane Bopp, Sergio Galli, Philemon Gschwend, Richard Lauper


Day 4 – Welcome to Shanghai

After three days in Beijing, it was time for us to move on and explore more of this exciting country. Just as we were getting ready to leave for the railway station the air started to get darker and coarser – the famous Beijing Smog that we have rarely encountered during the previous days seemed to be coming back. Or as our tour guide Eric put it: “When you were coming to Beijing the sky was washed clear and blue by the rain and now that you are leaving it turns gray with smog again – so come back soon!”.

The newly built high-speed rail network between Beijing and Shanghai reduced the travel time between those cities from 10 to 5 hours. Our train was racing through the country with a top speed of 350 km/h. While some took a nap and recovered from previous days and nights others enjoyed the diversified landscape that our 1318 km drive right through mainland China had to offer.

We arrived at noon in Shanghai at one of the biggest railway station in Asia. After meeting our new guide Issac and a quick lunch break at the station we were already on our way to the next company visit at Autoneum. Sadly we had to realize that our new bus driver was not as qualified and gentle as our previous one in Beijing as he was driving at top speed through several bumpy sections of the road. Still, we arrived as one piece at the local factory of Autoneum in Shanghai. Autoneum is the global market and technology leader in acoustic and thermal management solution for vehicles. The company was founded 2011 in Switzerland as a spin-off of Rieter Holding AG. The Autoneum Group holds several strategically placed factories all around the world – in Asia, Autoneum currently employs around 1900 employees. The factory we were visiting in Shanghai was relatively new and regularly expanded and updated on a yearly basis. After a short presentation, we were guided through all relevant process steps that were executed in the four factory building on the plant by the Product Manager.


Here we were getting our first taste of the manufacturing industry in China. It was interesting to witness the manufacturing process from raw material to finished goods first hand. We appreciated that Autoneum provided us the opportunity to experience how international companies do business in Asia.

After leaving the factory we were driving right to the hotel in the middle of Shanghai – the Bund Riverside Hotel. After Check-In most of us were swarming out to explore the surrounding area. Later we all met again in the hotel lobby to go for a drink at the famous Bar Rouge with a beautiful view of the modern skyline of Shanghai.

Group Shanghai

André Birri, Floriane Bopp, Sergio Galli, Philemon Gschwend, Richard Lauper