Day 18 – Banking industry and welfare dinner

The last day of our China trip started as usual in the lobby of our hotel from where we left for two very interesting meetings with Swiss expats. The visits gave us an insight in the banking industry in Hong Kong and the especially the Swiss banks in this area as well as the life as an expat working for those banks. First we took the boat to set over to Hong Kong island and soon arrived in the Hong Kong branch of the UBS. Due to connections of Mr. Ruettimann we were able to talk to a Swiss expat who worked abroad for 12 years already and therefore was able to give us a unique inside what banking in Asia and Hong Kong is all about. We were received on the 52. Floor in a nice meeting room from where we had a great overview, although most of us first went for the `hen hao chi` croissants they offered us. The speech was great and helped us to understand why the banks rush into this region and opened us the eyes for the fact that we should be more aware of the coming, yet already ongoing competition from Asia to the West.

Secondly, thanks to a contact of one of our students, we could dig in further into the banking sector in Hong Kong by visiting a Swiss expat at the Credit Swiss. This meeting was for some of us of special interest, because it was a former student of the ZHAW and an example of how a career could look like in the first few years after graduation. As a Swiss banker sent to Hong Kong on a two years contract he could tell us firsthand experience about the value of gaining experience abroad, but didn’t hide the difficult side of it. Overall we think he gave us a good and honest overview about what he experienced so far and it will be for sure a help for some of us when the question comes up about going a step further and becoming an expat.
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Day 17 – Shenzhen: BYD, Lenovo and leaving China

After more then two weeks of traveling through China mainland, our last day in this large country has arrived. At 7am everbody had to be checked out. Unfortunately not all of us got their laundry back which caused a dalay of  20min. Enough time to get a cup of coffee from Mc Dondalds to strengthen us for another busy day. The visits of the companies  ‘Build Your Dreams’ and Lenovo was sheduled for this day.

Arround 10am we arrived in front of the gate of BYD in Shenzhen. First of all, the company was introduced in a short speech where they clarified that BYD is more then just a car manufacturer. BYD embraces three businesses: IT, automobile and new energy. Everybody wanted to see the production plant but due to their strict rules we could not visit it. The disappointment was only short-lived because BYD showed up with a big surprise. We were given the unique opportunity to drive with the electric car e6. A strange feeling since there was absolutely no sound of engine. This proved us that China is also preparing their future, zero emission & zero noise.

After a short stopover at Mc Donalds, specialists from Lenovo showed us the production of the well-known  ThinkPad notebook. Hundreds of Chinese workers stood at the assembly line, doing not more then one or two actions, an engraving impression. Thanks to this, the picture of a simple and standardized notbook became its face. Now we know all the procedures behind it.

Another intersting day, packed with a lot of impressions reached its end. We left China mainland behind us as we crossed the border to Hong Kong.

Day 16 – Franke’s Kitchen

After meeting in front of the Lido Hotel at 8 o’clock, we were boarding the bus to drive out of the city to visit Franke, where Peter Spirig and his team welcomed us. Firstly, we were allowed to independently walk around the office building, to see the office workers’ working environment. After meeting again at the conference room, we listened to an interesting presentation about “Franke kitchen supply” business model and general tips of how to do business in Asia. We were furthermore able to get an idea about their products, which involves kitchen facilities, mainly sold to McDonalds, Yam Food and Burger King. The division’s responsibility includes also other countries in Asia and the Middle East. Franke is not only selling whole kitchen units to those clients, but furthermore assists them throughout the whole lifecycle of a fast-food kitchen. This involves supplying the clients with spare parts, hard goods and increasingly with energy management solutions. After this insight, with lots of interaction, by asking questions, we were splitting into two groups and went to the workshop, where the kitchen units are being produced. We were shown the production steps from the initial step of cutting the parts out of the steel, to the bending of the parts and later on the assembly stage, where the parts are being put together to the final product.  After doing so, it was lunchtime at the company’s own canteen, where we were able to talk with the workers. After lunch, we were given some questions to answer and later on presented our solutions to the plenum. After taking group pictures and thanking Peter Spirig for his interesting insight, we drove to the Haihui temple, which was first built in the Ming Dynasty. It was later on destroyed and rebuilt in 1994 to develop Buddhistical cultural tourism. The temple is situated on the Dayan Hill and gave us a nice view over the valley. Far too early, it was again time to board the coach and drive back to the Lido Hotel, where we started to have a reflection on our trip.

Day 15 – Guangzhou: SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance SA) and Baiyun – leather trading and exhibition center

Today we had the rare opportunity to visit SGS-CSTC Standards Technical Services Co., Ltd. This company serves local and overseas clients with inspection, verification, testing and certification services. We were all very positively surprised how interesting the certification process is. We got an overview about how inline-skates, wheelchairs , soccerballs, photocameras, textiles or washmaschines are tested before being launched to the market. Just few of us had been completely aware of the certification process as a set part between the product development and its launch.

We continued our bus ride while the organization team announced the further program. It came as a surprise and a rather good one especially for the women. We stopped at “Baiyun – world elaborate leather trading and exhibition center”, which is the prominent chinese wholesale market for leather goods. There are further sold a considerable amount of fake gadgets. It was extremely impressive to realize the premium quality of the copied goods and the similarities between copies and originals. We could first-hand experience about this huge black-market, the corruptions of the police around according to it and see all the major buyers, mostly African and Arabian citizens who place big orders.

The third and optional stop today was the medical market as long as the busy schedule allowed it. And finally in the evening, most of the students took the chance to catch some Western food which was a welcomed contrast to the daily Asian food we enjoy.

Day 14 – Guangzhou: Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou

The day started in the morning at 6:45 a.m., when we had to catch the bus to the airport of Guilin to fly to Guangzhou. Due to time pressure caused by the delay of the plane we had to rush to the bus and eat lunch on the way to the Sun Yat sen University. There we were welcomed by Ms C. Yan, officer of international affairs. She gave us a brief introduction in to the different departments and programmes they offer. The University offers programmes in Arts, Sciences, Law, Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine and Education. Sun Yat Sen, the man who dethroned the emperor at the beginning of the 19th century, founded the university in 1924. It has four campuses covering a total area of 6.170 square kilometers and is located on both sides of the pearl river. Currently there are 90 000 students enrolled, thereof around 70 are internationals.

Consecutively Prof. Steven X. Shi held a speech about the outsourcing industry in the province of Guangdong. He gave us some insights into the present situation and the near future of the chinese outsourcing industry. The region is facing the problem of rising salaries and therefore higher production costs. Because of this many labor-intensive industries moved to western provinces to benefit still from lower salaries. The region is trying to change from labor-intensive factories to more service-oriented companies. To achieve this goal they firstly need to overcome the lack of education facilities and English skills of the local population.

After a short visit to the library we drove to the East campus where we met a group of local students. We all went for a stroll around the campus and chatted with each other. It was interesting to hear about their daily life at Sun Yat sen University. Then we met Prof. Dr. Christian Stähelin who did a lecture about his work as a biolocical researcher in Guangzhou. At the end of the day we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Mr Stähelin, his wife Ping and some of his students in an outdoor restaurant. For dessert we had local lychees, which were very sweet.

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Day 13 – Yangshuo

Today was a wonderful day. Having been able to get a little bit more sleep than normally the students could explore the township of Yangshuo on their own. Yangshuo is where also chinese domestic tourism takes place. Every Chinese wants to take a ride on the Li River and then stay a few nights in this village. Due to this fact there are myriad stores where you can find whatever you are looking for. As the township is pretty small the students ran into each other every other block.  After a few hard and tiring days finally some kind of holiday feeling came up.

At 2.45 PM all the students met at the hotel lobby to welcome Dr. Rüttimann with various cakes. A touching Happy Birthday was sung what the birthday child appreciated. After a few bites from the delicious cakes we boarded three mini buses, which took us to a secret place. Dr. Rüttimann organized a surprise.

After arriving at a River we took traditional bamboo boats with two seats each. With these bamboo boats we drove down the river. Some took the chance to hold and reflect about the experiences made in China others preferred to let come out their inner child and started huge water fights until everybody involved in these fights was completely wet.

We had dinner together and went to a light show afterwards. It was a very impressive light show with lots of actors and how were singing Chinese songs. In the European ear it sometimes sounded a bit wired but the Chinese tourists seemed to enjoy the music quiet a lot. Nevertheless the performance with the lights was spectacular.

Hopefully we will have a nice and safe trip to Guangzhou tomorrow.

Cheers

Day 12 – Li River cruise & Yangshuo

After one night in Guilin the next day started with a boat cruise on the Li river in order to go to our next destination: the town of Yangshuo.

Lijang River originates from Cat Mountain in Xing’an County in the North of Guilin. It flows 437km down through the towns of Guilin, Yangshou and Wuzhou. The distance between Guilin and Yangshou is about 83km. Along the river banks we travelled through spectacular landscapes composed of hills, towering peaks, cliffs and odd-shapped crags, all reflected in the water of the river.  Continue reading

Day 11 – Guilin: Subachi, Tea Plantage and Student Meeting

After having a few hours of sleep, our trip continued in the early morning. We met a 7.00am and were directly driven to the airport where we took a plane and flew to Guilin. The first stop there was Subachi, a company that manufactures straps for luxury Swiss watches. The insights into this industry we got there were very interesting since nobody couldn’t imagine how the procedure of this strap necking is. In order to produce a leader strap there are around 30 steps to go through. A normal employee in this company is working around 10 hours a day, is not allowed to talk and earns on average 200 Swiss Francs a month.

After this interesting tour we checked in at our hotel in Guilin and got introduced to local students. It was a clash of two different worlds while the Chinese students were very nervous and excited, we were very aware to avoid any cultural mistakes. Together we went to visit a tea plantage where we got introduced to the deepest secrets of tea and even walked through the tea fields. Already having a lot impressions in mind, the day got even better. In our individual groups, joined by designated Chinese students, we went for dinner. So again – round table. Actually it was very delicious and of course very amusing. Although it was already late and the students were supposed to be back at their dormitory, we decided to go for karaoke. The group of two different cultures formed to a very successful coverband and had fun together until the early morning.

Day 10 – Yiwu City

We met early in the morning, at 7.15 am in the lobby. Throughout the day we were accompanied by DJ, who is a local Chinese student who studied for one year at the ZHAW. After a two hour drive with the coach we arrived in Yiwu city. Yiwu city is a city that was pushed by the government as a trading area and is nowadays the largest global commodities wholesale market. The business area of “China Yiwu City International Trade Market” is over 4 billion square meters with approximately 130 market halls. We visited two market halls. The first market hall included show rooms selling goods from Chinese suppliers whereas the second hall is offering products from foreign companies. After a delicious traditional Chinese lunch we took the coach to Neoglory Jewelry Co., Ltd. We were warmly welcomed by the CEO of the company. He introduced us to his company who is number one for fashion jewelry in China and presented us his show room. We even had the chance to buy jewelry with a generous discount.

Last but no least we visited Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College (YWICC). We were shown a presentation about the school. After the presentation we had an interesting discussion with two students from the College which offers a degree in Entrepreneurship. Lastly, we were guided through their innovation park on the campus. The innovation park is an exhibition of the innovations of several students. Then, we drove back to the hotel by bus. After the arrival at the Ramada at around 7 pm everybody enjoyed their free evening.

Day 9 – Hangzhou: Visit to Haining City Lili Leather Garments Co. Ltd, Nicelink Home Furnishings Co. Ltd and Tannery

The day 9 was characterized by chinese midsize companies in the area of Hangzhou.

After a little delay in the morning we started the day by bus in direction to Haining City. The first company we visited was Haining City Lili Leather Garments Co. Ltd which manufactures and exports leatherwear. We were impressed to see the whole process of producing leather jackets of the company. We had the opportunity to see the different divisions starting with the designing of the clothes, followed by cutting, sewing, sticking and packaging. Afterwards we were able to see the final product produced for customers like H&M, Esprit, Geox, Pierre Cardin, Only and s’Oliver.

The second company we visited was Nicelink Home Furnishings Co. Ltd which produces and exports sofa covers. This company has also a very deep value chain, producing in-house excep the used leather. It was impressive to see the size of the production hall and the many engaged employees. Very hungry we ate close by the company in a Chinese restaurant. It was delicious.

Finally we were guided through a tannery where we were able to see the different steps of producing usable leather for jackets. The company puts emphasis on the cleaning of the chemical production liquid. They collect and transfer it to a central cleaning water station where most of the waste is being removed.