Day 3 – This morning’s lecture by Yong Wang was focused on trade between the U.S. and China and import/export statistics and the possibility of a currency war. It was an informative talk but not exactly my area of interest. Lunch today was at a campus restaurant which I don’t know the name of but it had the best food I’ve tasted thus far. I highly recommend the dumplings this city has to offer. In the afternoon, we were taken to the Qianmen (“Front Gate”) area and the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition. The exhibition was our first stop. The thing here which seemed to catch everyone’s interest was a scaled model of the entire city. The model made me aware for the first time of the immensity of Beijing….and also aware of the fact that it is somewhat excusable to get lost a lot. After the exhibition, we went to a street in the Qianmen area which had recently been given a make over. The buildings here had been restored to their original grandeur and now house a bunch of restaurants and shops. We wandered back among the hutongs and found a hostel which apparently is one of the more popular ones in Beijing. Although I’d like to try to experience mostly Chinese culture while I’m here, this place seemed pretty cool. People from all over the world wandered in and out with giant backpacks on while we sat down for dinner and drinks. After we all had discussed/argued/etc…about everything under the sun for some time, the 3 of us girls headed back. Now seems like a good time to explain the taxi and overall driving situation in Beijing. Here, the lines on the road, lights and road signs are more of suggestions than actual rules. Basically, the roads are a free-for-all and pedestrians don’t have the right of way. It’s not uncommon at all to look around while you’re in a taxi and not see a single car that’s actually in a lane. I feel like I’m going to die every time I get in a taxi, but to me it’s the easiest way around the city so I do it anyway.
Day 4 – Happy Birthday Kate!! Yep three of us have birthdays in the 6 weeks that we’re here. Mine happens to be the last day that we’re in Beijing…so I’m expecting it to be epic. Anyways, Kate decided that she wanted to do karaoke this night so I’ll get back to that in a sec. This morning we had a lecture by Jian Yuan on economic development in China. The part of her lecture that I found particularly interesting was her explanation of the life of “floating” workers in China. These are the people who move back and forth between rural and urban jobs and her description of their lives paints a tough picture. She also talked about how in order to increase GDP, China needs to increase consumption. I don’t know if there would be a potential problem with having two of the top economies in the world (China and the US) both based on consumption…doesn’t seem like it would work out well to me. For lunch, four of us went with Joyce to try a hot pot, which was on my list of must-dos while in Beijing. Definitely an experience, but not sure that its one I’ll try again. After that, we went to Aigo (technology company) where we were shown the showroom, taken on a tour and given a presentation by an executive in the international marketing sector. Overall, it was informative and a glimpse into the Chinese market for technological goods. I thought it was interesting that he admitted that the company doesn’t even try to market their MP3s in the US because there is no possible way they can compete with the iPod. After that, we went to dinner, and after that…karaoke!! Okay, so the way they karaoke in Asia in not at all the way we do it in the States. Here, you rent a room with your friends, pay by the hour and order food and drinks all night long. It’s a better situation for those who embarrass easily but not so fun for those who like to enjoy making a fool of themselves in public. And for those who can actually sing (like Kate) well then it doesn’t really matter who’s listening.
Day 5 – This morning, instead of a lecture we went to Lenovo (another electronics company) where we had a meeting with one of its executives. He gave us a presentation on how they were able to have such a successful year last year by sticking to a “game plan”(which was extremely basic in my opinion so I don’t know how it’s implemented but then again I’m not very business-minded). Their company is apparently rivaling Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc…now that they bought out IBM’s laptop industry, but I’d never heard of them before I came here. Our lecture got moved to the afternoon and it was a very interesting topic: Taiwan. I thought the lecturer (Qingmin Zhang) was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the Taiwan issue, but his opinions on the subject were more biased than he claimed to be. I think he thought he was open-minded about the issue, but it did not come across that way to us. Particularly interesting was his focus on Chinese and U.S. interests, motivations and public opinion on Taiwan, but absolutely nothing from the Taiwanese perspective. After the lecture, we all went out to dinner at a campus restaurant called The Yellow Table (which was delicious) and after that…I went to bed (still suffering from jet lag a little).
Day 6 – I went for a run this morning around the lake in the middle of Bei Da. Looking at that place it’s hard to imagine that it’s a university campus…it’s so beautiful. Kate and I went there yesterday for a walk and took some pictures. The one’s with us in them all look like they could pass as senior portraits. The campus here is overwhelmingly large…just picture this lake (which has a path around it a little over a mile) and it takes up just a tiny fraction of the school’s actual size. Fangjun Kong gave a talk about the Chinese political model and how it was essentially taken and altered (just a little) to fit China’s needs. Interesting subject, but the language barrier was difficult to overcome because his English was not that good. In the afternoon, an executive from the Minsheng Bank was supposed to talk to us but he had to cancel so we joined the U. of San Diego students on their trip to the Summer Palace. The palace itself was beautiful but the most impressive aspect of the area was the lake, which was man-made. We got rental boats and floated around for about an hour and then the guys found a remote area of the lake where some Chinese people swim, relax, and sing (apparently). While one of the guys went swimming, the rest of us got to listen to this older gentleman go back and forth between singing ballads about Chairman Mao and playing Yankee Doodle Dandy on the harmonica. Fun cultural fact: when you compliment a Chinese person, they have to deny whatever it is you complimented them on. It’s almost considered rude to accept it by just saying “thank you.” Whereas in the U.S., if you deny it you’re considered rude for fishing for compliments. After that, we went back to Hou Hai which ended up being a late night for me (enough said). But I did get a fabulous massage! If you go there and a little old man comes up and offers you a massage for 20yuan...take it. He comes highly recommended by myself and two others in my group.