Category Archives: Business and Asia

MIM Asia Field Study Part 3 – Vietnam

By Jake Culian

Well our grand journey has come to its last stage. After leaving Shanghai we traveled further into Southeast Asia and ended up in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam.  Since we arrived late on a Friday night we spent the weekend doing cultural tours.  Our first tour took us down into the Mekong River Delta where we took multiple boat rides, some nice walks and a motorcycle buggy ride.  Here we’re enjoying the warm temperatures, the river breeze and coconut milk.


The second day of our cultural tour took us through the Presidential Palace and the Vietnam War Museum. Featured below is the exhibit on Agent Orange. At least for me personally it was definitely one of the rougher sections of the trip.  From the perspective of a business person it makes me think about the long term consequences of the sort of chemical products we create and use in business as well as on a daily basis.


The first company visit we had was with a Vietnamese Pharmaceuticals company called Amvipharm.  They are one of the companies working to fulfill the local need for antibiotics and dialysis fluids with plans to expand their productive capacities.  This visit was interesting because it gave us a look at the countries growing health insurance industry.  Afterwards we were treated to a lunch at a very tasty local restaurant.


The second company we visited was a commodities firm called Louis Dreyfus.  This international firm has a “farm to fork” policy where they try to secure vertical control of their supply chain.  This goes all the way down to creating symbiotic long term contracts with their crop producers where they help them become more efficient and sustainable.  One of the things I found most interesting here was all the different ways they had to work to control multiple sorts of risk and their use of insurance, forecasting, and the futures market.


Over the course of the trip there were several opportunities to take additional tours or excursions, like an acrobatic show. Here is the possible tour of the Cu Chi tunnels which four of our classmates took part in.  This tour shows some of the places and methods that the Viet Cong used to hide during the Vietnam War.  I didn’t take part in this tour, but I’m fairly certain there’s no way I was going to fit in that hole.


Near and dear to many Portland natives is Nike.  During our time in Vietnam we got to visit one of their 65 contract factories which produce almost half of their total footwear per year.  We got to hear from both the local corporate side of Nike as well as talk to the local factories management and their ongoing efforts to improve efficiency.   After coming seeing just how automated the factories in Japan were it was interesting to see the mix of automation and sheer manpower behind creating all these shoes.


Our last visit was to Datalogic, an Italian tech firm which mainly produces scanners and bar-code readers.  This facility offered us some of the most direct comparison on the differences in companies in Vietnam and China.  Datalogic and a firm I discussed earlier, Hella, had very similar layouts, but Hella made much more efficient use of its space and was far more organized.  This all said Datalogic received a Priority Enterprise Certificate from the government of Vietnam which grants it many privileges.


As our trip came to a close we spent some time at the Vietnam International University where we explored their campus and visited with local students.  After listening to short lecture we reunited with our professor and got right down to the serious business of singing.  Many groups had gone out to Karaoke at various points on the trip, but here we had a live audience of local students.  To wow them with our talents, our program director started off with a duet with one our cohort members and then we serenaded them with Chinese songs we had learned for the New year.


After we finished singing we dragged everyone down for the largest group photo of our entire trip.  The students here had been extremely welcoming and nobody had booed us off stage so I think it was a pretty great success.  Particularly fun for me was some assistance from a local student in finding an awesome Salsa club to go dancing at later that night in downtown Ho Chi Minh.


Well it was a crazy trip full of long plane rides, lots of buses, and even more awesome memories. Ho Chi Minh was definitely my favorite part of this trip, I loved the environment and the food was delicious.  Here was our closing banquet where we talked about plans for spring break and enjoyed one more night spent with each other before many of us started our mad dash back to the US.  While I went home the next day I highly recommend staying in Asia someplace, but do yourself a favor and make sure to rest a bit before you come back cause when you do school is waiting to start off sprinting.



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MIM Asia Field Study Part 2 – China

By Jake Culian

Last time we discussed our travels through Japan, but as soon as that was over the MIM cohort of 2015 dashed off to Shanghai.  While we had all greatly enjoyed Japan it was time to continue our adventure and visit one of the largest cities in China.  To start things off we had lunch on our first full day there on the eastern side of Shanghai.  In the background you can see faintly one of the tallest buildings in Shanghai.

China 1

One of the first companies we went to visit was an electronic car components manufacturer named Hella.  Hella is a German based firm with 4 facilities in China and we got to visit their Chinese headquarters.  This firm produces many car parts which include circuit boards or other electronic components and this facility prides itself for having the lowest defect rate among Hella factories.  After viewing their factory we got to talk to a top facility manager who was able to discuss with us many of the issues of their business in Shanghai and new market trends.

China 2

While we had traveled by bus on all our company visits in Tokyo while in Shanghai we got a special treat and got to ride the bullet train up to Nanjing to visit one of the Hanes factories.  It was amazing watching the speedometer march up towards 300 km/hr and not feel anything.  The Hanes factory was interesting in that they actually ship 70% of their yarn to China from the US and then ship the cut products elsewhere to be made into garments and finally back to the US as a finished good.  The excitement wasn’t over though because on our way back into Shanghai our train stopped less than a mile outside the station for an hour because of technical issues.  Guess everything can’t go smoothly.

China 3

One of our two cultural excursions during the China section of the trip took place in Nanjing where we got to visit the Nanjing History Museum.  Never one to miss the opportunity for a photo when we saw the development of man pictures we just had to recreate them as a development of the modern businessman.  The museum had a wide variety of artifacts from many different periods of Chinese history including pottery, art, furniture and recreations.

China 4

The next day we returned to making company visits and this time visited a Toll Global Forwarding facility located nearby our hotel in Shanghai.  The Toll Group is an Australian based logistics solutions provider which prided itself on coming up with innovative total solutions which help companies in more ways than just cutting costs in logistics.  In the background you can see an example of these logistics solutions where they would pick and pack multiple types of wine and send them together to end users as a way of saving their customer an addition step in the shipping process.

China 5

One of my personal favorite things about Shanghai was how centrally located we were.  Below you can see the hotel with a spaceship on top.  That’s the Radisson Blue Hotel and it’s located on Nanjing Road, a major commercial area with lots of shopping and amazing food.  From the hot pot restaurant we nicknamed painful pot to the Xinjiang style restaurant 2 blocks from where we were staying we never lacked for good food.  The park across the street had a really fun bar in a little pond as well.  Then of course there were the two buildings we decided were probably Sauron’s tower, one of which you can see right in the middle here.

China 6

My favorite company visit was this one below, a flavoring and fragrance company called Symrise.  Our host was a little hesitant about our visit and started out not entirely pleased to see us, but like everyone we have visited on this trip so far we were able to win them all over.  Everyone we have talked to so far has been surprised how international our cohort is and then even more surprised how challenging the questions we ask are.  Since school has started some class members have struggled with being forced to speak up and exit their comfort zones, but now we get to see the vast rewards as potential employers are impressed time and again by the level of thought we present.

China 7

Our second cultural tour was visiting Suzhou University about an hour and a half outside of Shanghai.  This was the second of three colleges that we will visit and seeing how different programs work is an extremely valuable part of this trip.  In addition it allows us to start making connections with people who are going to be working in the same sort of fields we will be.  The students guided us around Suzhou and then took us to a large garden complex.  It was fun getting to walk around a more traditional Chinese city and cool to get to know more international students.

China 8

As business students it would never do to leave a city like Shanghai without doing some firsthand research on local small business strategy.  Towards this end many of visited the old market district up near the bund above our hotel.  Walking through the market was a little bit of an overwhelming experience with huge numbers of people and endless little shops.  Since this is China they also take their lights and colors seriously as can be seen below.  Don’t let the colorful exterior fool you though, the shop owners are vicious bargainers.

China 9

And now we come to the end of our time in Shanghai and the beginning of the next adventure.  Our time in Shanghai wasn’t very long, only until the afternoon of Friday the 13th but we all had a fun time.  As the trip kept going we all started getting tired from the constant running around, but with only one country left we can’t stop now.  Here we’re waiting with our brave program director in the Shanghai International Airport for our airline to let us check in.  It was a great time in Shanghai, and next stop Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam!

China 10

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MIM Asia Field Study Part 1 – Japan

By Jake Culian

One of the coolest parts about the MIM program is the Asia trip.  We left Portland for Tokyo on March 1st and were there till the 8th.  We had all finished off finals the previous week and before any of us knew what was happening we were sitting in the airport waiting to fly overseas.


With the glories of the International Date Line we took off at 11am and didn’t land until 3pm the next day.  After being stuck on a plane for almost 11 hours we did what any hungry college student would do… we went and found food.  Needless to say we were not disappointed with the food we found here.


We had the pleasure of staying the Grand Prince Takanawa Hotel during our stay here.  The first morning we all got dressed up and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast.  Then before we got on our bus to go visit our first company we took a group photo to commemorate the occasion.


As our very first company visit we got to see the Kewpie Mayonnaise plant.  This is a really interesting facility which has the ability to automatically crack around 20,000 tons of eggs per year.  We got to see these machines in action and they were quite interesting and part of a highly automated process, but like in most of the facilities we visited we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the process, so this is the line-up of salad dressings the produce which they allowed us to sample during lunch.


Later during the week we got to visit one of the Nissan plants located near Tokyo.  They produce 4 kinds of cars here including the Leaf electric car all on the same assembly line and in the order they are desired.  It was cool to see the differences between this plant producing regular sized cars and the Hino Toyota plant producing large trucks.  In this picture one of our translators, Hiroshi from Direct Force, is helping us ask questions to the guide from Nissan.


As is probably becoming clear I really enjoyed all the opportunities we had to eat good food and no trip would be complete without the opportunity to eat from a chocolate fondue fountain.


As someone who grew up in the United States it never ceases to amaze me just how huge cities in Asia can be.  From our hotel rooms we could look out across the city and see Tokyo Tower.  Getting the chance to go and explore the city definitely exposed us to a vast set of cultural differences for those of us from the US and China.


Almost as important as seeing how facilities and factories work in Asia is looking at the local culture.  We were given a free day to go out and explore the city on Saturday March 7th and most students explored the city.  This was one of the most impressive sights anyone found, a shrine which our Thai students went to go see.


On one of the last days before we left for Shanghai we visited with a group of Japanese economics students at Tokyo Kaizi University.  They really made us feel at home and helped teach us how to prepare a variety of Japanese traditional foods.  Here we are trying to evenly cook Takoyaki.


Finally as we prepared to leave Tokyo to make our way to Shanghai we all posed back in the gardens behind the Grand Prince Takanawa Hotel.  We had a blast visiting Japan and I know I really look forward to making it back at some point.  We got a chance to grow as a cohort and see how many of the concepts we learn in class are applied in real life.



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Navigating China with Attorney Merril Keane

Keane, Merril_2010_web

Oregon Lawyer Merril Keane, Attorney at Miller Nash LLP

Last Friday as part of Portland State of Mind an Oregon attorney for Miller Nash LLP spoke about her experiences studying and working in China. Merril Keane, a SE Portland native, spent three years in Beijing following her graduation from Haverford College, after which she received her law degree from UCLA. She has since worked globally training clients on the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, consulting for  international business transactions, and advising clients on trade regulation compliance. Continue reading

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Asia-Pacific News Highlights Feb. 18-24

This week’s articles cover Japan’s struggling export model, fine whiskey, income inequality in China,
concerning military buildups in the Asia-Pacific, and China’s new claim to fame.


From Reuters – Japan had enjoyed a favorable trade surplus for much of the last few decades. With the
economy still floundering, this seems to be changing.

From Forbes – When people think fine whiskey, they may think Ireland, Canada, or the southern United

States. Think again, Japan is hot on their heels!


From The Diplomat – China has launched a massive campaign to tackle income inequality and bridge the
rural-urban divide that has emerged since Reform and Opening was implemented.

From Russia Today – Without much fanfare, China has surpass the United States as the world’s largest
trader of goods. The US has held this position for the past six decades.


From The Diplomat – A frightening, yet comforting, article drawing parallels between military buildups in
Europe in the 1910’s and modern day Asia.

Lucas Hudson

Luke_HudsonLucas Hudson is a full-time student in the Masters of International Management program. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Spanish from the University of Oregon. During his studies, he lived in Valdivia, Chile, studying Spanish language and Latin American history. After graduation, Luke has spent his time traveling extensively throughout South America and working as a banker and accountant for local Portland businesses. He is interested in using his business experience and language skills to find a career that will allow him build relations between Latin America and the Asia-Pacific.

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Tips for doing business in China

Global businesses are still trying to get a foothold in China, however challenges remain for those looking to do business abroad. Intense competition, business etiquette and language are some of the barriers that can be faced. Here are some things to keep in mind when traveling to China. 


Full-time MIM student Bin Hao

Never argue or voice a difference of opinion with anyone—even a member of your own team. Never make the other person wrong. Never say “no” directly, as that is considered rude and arrogant. Full-time MIM student Bin Hao thinks, “Actually it isn’t always never. For example, if I was listening to a lecture in high school and the teacher said something incorrect, I wouldn’t raise my hand and correct him in front of the whole class. I would hide my opinion and just talk about it with my classmates later.”


Resist the temptation to jump in if your Chinese counterpart remains silent. Silence is the true friend that never betrays. Full-time MIM student Qijun Fang agrees with this statement and added, “This is true. Remaining silent can represent many things. However, for questions like: Are you feeling ok? Did I do something wrong? It is not necessary to stay silent, and answer would be helpful.”



Full-time MIM student Qijun Fang

 Make an effort to speak a little bit of Chinese.“Really important! If you speak some Chinese, people will feel you are showing respect. I don’t know whether it is the same in other countries, but in China, if you speak Chinese, people will soon treat you like a friend. It is a very good skill for foreigners to have when talking to Chinese” said Fang.


The Importance of “Face”
The concept of ‘face’ roughly translates as ‘honour’, ‘good reputation’ or ‘respect’. There are four types of ‘face:
1) Diu-mian-zi: this is when one’s actions or deeds have been exposed to people.
2) Gei-mian-zi: involves the giving of face to others through showing respect.
3) Liu-mian-zi: this is developed by avoiding mistakes and showing wisdom in action.
4) Jiang-mian-zi: this is when face is increased through others, i.e. someone complementing you to an associate.
It is critical you avoid losing face or causing the loss of face at all times. 

“Most of time, people think Chinese people are shy talk in front of lots of people, but it is because they are afraid that they might say something wrong and lose face” said Hao.


Handshakes are the most common form of greeting with foreigners.“True, sometimes foreigners are quick to give hugs, but many older Chinese people do not like to have that much of their body touched with new acquaintances” said Fang.


Many Chinese will look towards the ground when greeting someone. “We tend not to look directly at the eyes, but we would not look towards the ground, that is impolite. Chinese culture puts emphasis on being polite” said Hao.

“Unlike western culture, looking directly into someone’s eyes could be considered a sign of enmity or a tease. However it is not a strict rule, people will make eye contact when greeting someone” said Fang.

When eating learn to use chopsticks. “That is fine, but people use forks and spoons a lot” said Fang.


Susan Forrester


 Susan Forrester is a full-time student in the Masters in International Management program. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Portland State University. After living in Seoul, South Korea for two years she was interested in finding a career that linked Oregon and Asia together through trade. Susan enjoys the diverse background of the MIM student body that allows her to frequently practice her beginner level Chinese.


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Doing business in South Korea

South Korea is home to leading electronic companies: LG, Samsung; car companies: Hyundai and Kia along with many manufacturing operations and a large market of consumers interested in the latest trends in electronics, fashion and music. I spent two years working in Seoul and over time learned the ins and outs of doing business in the Land of the Morning Calm aka South Korea. It is difficult for expats to be perceived as part of the group and many times their leadership traits can come off  as arrogant or confrontational. I surveyed expats DSCN2357from South Korea who have lived there for 5+ years to get their advice on successfully doing business overseas.

Confucian ethics dominate Korean thought patterns and this translates into business terms by having great respect for authority, age and seniority. Confucian respect for authority dictates that managers will be respected simply because they are the manager.

Subservient employees will not question the authority of their manager, despite knowing or believing an alternative idea to be superior. They will also remain in the office well past the time they’ve finished their tasks until the manager leaves to prove how dedicated they are to the company.

Appearance is important in Korea so one should look their best at all times – both for formal and informal gatherings. Be smartly and conservatively dressed and maintain good, upright body posture at all times in formal situations.

Western cultures are known for caring about appearances and giving merit because someone looks good. However, it is hard to explain how closely your looks are scrutinized in South Korea: facial blemishes verbally pointed out, comments on weight gain or needing to lose weight, questions about hair styles, make-up choices and types of outfits you wear. If you are visiting Seoul you will need to dress nicely for all business situations, for men: suits, ties and leather shoes; for women: skirts, tights, heels and a nice handbag. The nicer you look the more credit you are given.

Korean managers are expected to take a holistic interest in the well-being of their staff and this includes an interest in their personal life.

I was routinely asked by managers, bosses and coworkers, if I was married, had children, did I have a significant other, where I lived and what my parents did for a living. They are not trying to pry or be nosy, they have a genuine interest in your life, so open up and let them in!

The majority of business relationship building takes place in the bars and restaurants of South Korea. If invited out for dinner, it is advisable to accept as these are often the occasions imageswhere your South Korean contacts will really decide if you are a trustworthy honorable person. Korea has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption rates in the world – so many business dinners are accompanied by fairly heavy drinking. You do not, of course, have to drink a lot if you don’t want to, but the Koreans will enjoy your company all the more if you join in with the general atmosphere of revelry.

Like other Asian cultures, you will want to make an effort to keep your superior’s glass filled. When pouring and receiving always use two hands. Always pass and receive objects with your right hand (supported by the left hand at the wrist or forearm) or with two hands. A great deal of business decisions are actually made outside the conference room, in these informal settings, so to not attend could actually put you or your company at a disadvantage from a business dealings standpoint.

Use both hands if possible when presenting and receiving a business card. If that is not possible, use your right hand and support your right elbow with your left hand. Business cards should be treated as an extension of the person. Therefore you should read it carefully and then place Get-your-business-card-right-in-Chinese-bannerit on the table in front of you. To put someone’s card in your pocket or to write on it, etc. is to show disrespect to the person.

Less than in Japan, a bowing of the head and upper shoulders is still considered incredibly polite and a tribute to the recipient. You can do a waist level bow if something is really serious or you really messed something up!







Susan Forrester


 Susan Forrester is a full-time student in the Masters in International Management program. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Portland State University. After living in Seoul, South Korea for two years she was interested in finding a career that linked Oregon and Asia together through trade. Susan enjoys the diverse background of the MIM student body that allows her to frequently practice her beginner level Chinese.


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