Day3: Insurance, Wine and Fake Money

For the third day in Beijing we visited the reinsurance company ‘Swiss Re’ in the heart of the city’s financial district. With regards to the lack of sleep of which most of us were suffering from, the welcoming Starbucks coffee at the firm was not only a nice gesture, but also highly required. At Swiss Re a motivated team presented us the firm’s history underlined with the milestones of the company. To my surprise the company’s loss of money caused by the San Francisco earthquake actually fostered the positioning of Swiss Re by gaining worldwide recognition. Other presentations focused on themes such as the OBOR initiative, food safety and the insurance situation of China where we were hit with a vast number of figures. Afterwards, we were invited to discuss China-related topics in groups along with an expert from the Swiss Re team. Overall, the visit was short but nonetheless insightful.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Claudia Masueger was kind enough to inform us on ‘Cheers Wine’ – a wine reseller that conquered Beijing with affordable, yet qualitative wine. Although a bit skeptical in the first place (due to the run down real estate), we were impressed by the professionality and innovation with which the business is run. In order to get a taste for the quality of ‘Cheers Wine’ a little degustation along with chicken feet and tongue (!) was set up. The saying ‘the eye eats with’ probably explained our conservative appetite, however, it made the event even more memorable.

Off program we then decided to make up the omitted meal by going to an all-you-can-eat Tepaniaki restaurant. The food became secondary when we realized that we are proud owner of fake money and must have been tricked by a vicious hotel employee. However, to quote Way: ‘This is China.’

Day 2 Innovation in China and Switzerland

In the morning of June 26 the class started the day with breakfast in the hotel at 07:30 am. After that the shuttle bus brought us to Innoway. Innoway is a street with 200 length where different startups had the chance to incubate.

In total 1900 startups had their offices in the street of Innoway since the beginning and 743 of them succeeded in finding an investor. The total amount of money spent from several investors for the startups is 91.04 billion Yuan.

Innoway itself supports the startups in marketing, HR and other important stuff. At the beginning of the visit an employee from the communication department gave us some interesting facts about the company and we had the chance to see some technological innovations like roboteers. In the second part of the morning we went through the street and had a look into several startup offices.

At 11:00 am the class went for lunch in a restaurant near Innoway or some of us went to McDonalds.

After an interesting morning, the shuttle brought us to the swiss embassy. When we arrived Loris Niederberger welcomed us to the embassy and gave us some introduction how he came to his job and to the embassy in general. We learned, that the embassy in Beijing in the biggest swiss embassy that Switzerland have in the world. For the afternoon, we were located in a room at the embassy where we had the chance to drink some coffee to stay fit because of the though program.

The first speaker we heard was Sophia Yan, a correspondent from CNBC who gave us a very interesting insight into the Chinese political system in connection with doing business in China. We learned that the Chinese government is controlling the companies very much and that it is very important as an entrepreneur to have good relationships to the government. After that Stefan Wellauer, a Political Advisor of the Swiss Embassy gave us a deeper insight into the daily business of the embassy. The next speaker was LI Jiang who works as a researcher for Phoenix New Media. In that presentation, we learned a lot about the culture in China and the influence of the government to companies or media. At the end Matthias Durrer from PwC Hongkong and Mainland China had a presentation about doing business in China. Key message from him was that everything is possible in the Chinese market but it is not easy to reach and you have to work hard to success.

After the very interesting afternoon the class changed the dress because we were invited to the Ambassador’s residence for the Venture Leaders Event. This event is to connect Chinese investors with Swiss entrepreneurs.

It was great to be there and we had the chance to listen to Swiss entrepreneurs who introduced the innovative products. After the presentation, we get some food and drinks at the buffet and used the evening for networking with the other guests.  It was a fantastic end to an interesting day.

Day 1 – China your Wall is great!

Our first day started with an early waking up in order to catch the shuttle to the great wall. This was a wise decision because our arrival at Mu Tian Yu at 7.15 am let us enter the cabel car as the first group and we enjoyed the wall without the usual crowd. The walk on the 8000 km long wall was simply impressive. Perfect weather conditions and almost no haze let us xxx. The Mu Tian Yu section is known because its building quality and its dimension. However, the section of Mu Tian Yu is only a little part of the 21`000 km long wall which goes through 15 provinces.

After a short lunchbreak at the park entrance the bus brought us back to the city centre of Beijing.

We continued our sightseeing tour at the Tiananmen square. This place became sadly famous as the student massacre in 1989. In honour of the death of the many thousand students we wanted to take a picture with the ZHAW banner. We already took the photo when a soldier came and angrily ordered to delete the pictures.

After this incident our guide Eric brought us the entrance of the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace of the Ming und Qing dynasties. The world`s largest palace complex impressed us with its detailed craftmanship.

To end the day we went to a traditional Chinese barbeque restaurant where the house speciality is lamb haunch. The food was delicious and even the 5 power blackouts couldn`t stop the good atmosphere.

China and Vietnam

China is situated in Eastern Asia on the Western shore of the Pacific Ocean and encompasses an area of 9.6 million square kilometers. China’s continental coastline extends along 18,000 kilometers, and its vast sea surface is studded with more than 5,000 islands. More than 1.2 billion people live in China.

Thanks to its reform and opening-up policy, China has become stronger and stronger in economy, science and technology. The nation’s economy has been growing rapidly, with the GDP dramatically increasing year by year. President Xi Jinping closing remark of the meanwhile famous speech at this years’ Davos WEF summit is leading the way: “We Chinese know only too well what it takes to achieve prosperity so we applaud the achievements of others and we wish them a better future. We are not jealous of others’ success and we will not complain about the others who have benefited. We will welcome them aboard the express train of Chinese development.” China’s economy is gradually shifting from a merely production-oriented to an innovation-led economy. Thus the Chinese markets will continue to open up and Chinese companies will internationalize as Western companies will explore China as a future market and supply source to an even greater extent.

Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. With an estimated 90.5 million inhabitants as of 2014. Vietnam is bordered by China to the north. Its capital city has been Hanoi since the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1975.

Vietnam was part of Imperial China for over a millennium, from 111 BC to AD 939. An independent Vietnamese state was formed in 939.The nation expanded geographically and politically into Southeast Asia, until the Indochina Peninsula was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Following a Japanese occupation in the 1940s, the Vietnamese fought French rule in the First Indochina War, eventually expelling the French in 1954. Thereafter, Vietnam was divided politically into two rival states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified in what is known as the Vietnam War. The war ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.

Vietnam was then unified under a communist government but remained impoverished and politically isolated. In 1986, the government initiated a series of economic and political reforms which began Vietnam’s path towards integration into the world economy. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with all nations. Since 2000, Vietnam’s economic growth rate has been among the highest in the world. Its successful economic reforms resulted in its joining the World Trade Organization in 2007.

Twenty-five students in their final semester at the ZHAW School of Management and Law (SML) embark on this study trip to China and Vietnam following attendance of the seminar “Doing business in Emerging Markets”. The objectives of this study trip are:

  • Experience the Chinese and Vietnamese way of life through real on-site exploration
  • Explore the cultural heritage and learn how to integrate the findings into doing business in emerging markets
  • Understand the buying power of China and Vietnam and its neighboring countries
  • Learn the first steps to expand one’s individual business network beyond Switzerland
  • Expand the horizon for a future professional career.

My heartfelt thanks goes to all organizations, companies and business partners in China and Vietnam who generously invited our SML student group. We deeply appreciate their support.

Moreover, I would like to thank the entire student group who co-organized this trip and in particular the core organizing team Beatrice Phua (CEO), Christian Spring (COO), Andrea Cavegn (CFO) and Andrin Wilhelm (CTO). We are all looking forward to this no doubt extremely rewarding and memorable journey.

Best wishes
Dr. Markus Braun
ZHAW School of Management and Law / Zurich University of Applied Sciences