Category Archives: China

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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Filed under Asia Trip, Business and Asia, Business Tours, China, Food, Japan, Vietnam

Lunar New Year Celebration at PSU

By Jake Culian

Well it’s that time of year again! Yep it’s New Years! But wait you say, didn’t New Year’s happen at the beginning of the year on January 1st?  Well yes it did but this is the Chinese New Year.  And for China the New Year isn’t just a one day event either.  This year the New Year celebration begins on February 19th and goes until March 5th.  This celebration is one of the biggest celebrations in China and is full of performances, fireworks and family gatherings.

3J5A0448_ProcessFBChinese New year is a truly enormous production in the major cities of China, but everyplace will have a celebration of some kind during the festival.  Every year the transportation systems are full to bursting as millions of people try to get home for the holidays.  And once the holiday really does start the firework usage is enormous.  Fireworks are believed to scare off evil spirts who bring bad luck and thus make sure that a person starts the year off right.  With low restrictions on who can purchase fireworks and where they can be used, cities like Beijing and Shanghai report picking up thousands of pounds of left over firework debris after every day of New Year celebration.

Every year in the Chinese calendar is attached to a different animal in 12 year cycles.  This year is year of the Ram and last year was year of the Horse.  Each of the animals is said to indicate something about people born in that year.  For example people who were born in a Ram year are supposed to be thoughtful, persevering and honest among other qualities.  In addition to giving details about their personality they are seen in much the same way that people from the west use their astrological sign.

3J5A0424_ProcessFBTonight I attended the Chinese Student Unions Chinese New Year party in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom with about 500 other students, professors, and locals.  We spent the first hour watching videos of people wishing everyone a happy new year.  After that though the real show started.  First there was a traditional Lion Dance followed by a dance to Xiao Ping Guo, or little apple. Then the local Confucius Institute had many people come in to do singing.  My personal favorite though was a really cool Tai Qi performance.

3J5A0923_ProcessFBIn addition to the performances all Portland States got in free and could get a Chinese meal.   They also had a raffle full of fun prizes which everyone there was eligible for.  All in all it was a really fun way to spend my Friday evening and it made all the MIM students were excited about putting on our own Chinese New Year event next week.

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Filed under China, Events

MIM Chinese Cultural Immersion – Tai Chi

By Fraya Saquina

As part of the Asian-focused global business curriculum, MIM students are able to choose between two Asian language classes: Chinese and Japanese. The Chinese language curriculum at Portland State University is administered by the Confucius Institute. The curriculum is designed to give students understanding about both the Chinese language and culture. One of the cultural immersion that students do regularly is Tai Chi practice.

The Tai Chi practice is led by Wang Rongrong, one of the teacher assistants for the beginning and intermediate MIM Chinese classes. According to Wang, she has been practicing Tai Chi since she was little, but last year she started to practice it more seriously when she was working at Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine with Master Duan.

MIM Students Practicing Tai Chi

MIM Students Practicing Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a form of martial arts that is part of the Chinese Kung Fu. The purpose of Tai Chi apart from self-defense is mostly for self-relaxation. This exercise brings balance to our modern life, where we spend most of our time at school or work that we often forget about our health and happiness. With that said, Tai Chi emphasizes on bringing harmony based on Chinese philosophy of slow and healthy life and improving fitness.

People from all ages can practice Tai Chi and this exercise is widely practiced in China. Wang said that it is especially important for busy working adults to practice it to bring peacefulness and happiness to life. Famous martial arts actors such as Jet Li and Bruce Lee all practice Tai Chi. Tai Chi was born in Henan province around 300 years ago, and it is still the home of Tai Chi schools where people from all over the world come to practice more in depth. The Tai Chi movements are described as slow moving like running water that allows the person practicing it gain more flexibility the more they do it. Tai Chi is usually done outdoors, at home, or training arena.

MIM Students Practicing Tai Chi

MIM Students Practicing Tai Chi

MIM students always look forward to Tai Chi practice every Friday morning. It releases the tension from the busy classes, homework, and exams. Beginning and intermediate Chinese MIM students are able to move their bodies while breathing fresh air every Friday morning outside of the Business School building.

To read more about The Confucius Institute at Portland State University, please visit:

If you would like to try practicing Tai Chi by yourself, please check out this video below:


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Filed under China, Language Study

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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Filed under Business and Asia, China, Juli's Entries

MIM Students Network at the Northwest China Council


MIM students enjoying the lunch and presentation provided by the NW China Council

It’s still summer vacation right now  in the MIM program. Many students are on the road traveling, some are busy with internships, and others are catching up on lost sleep from the previous months of the program.

For several MIM students who attended the Northwest China Council’s China Business Network event yesterday though, this time off from class is an opportunity to get out and network in the business community. The Northwest China Council is a non-profit organization in Portland that promotes understanding and connections between China and the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the cultural activities that the group organizes, there are also a number of business events that are held throughout the year, that serve as both as networking platforms for those interested in growing their business connections, and also provide educational information on issues relevant to doing business in China.

Yesterday’s event dealt specifically with the internationalization of China’s currency, the RMB. This included a presentation by Joseph Soroka of Key Bank, who gave an overview of China’s recent currency and foreign trade policy, followed by a Q&A session . The discussion was of course decidedly finance-heavy, and in many aspects covered material that MIM students learn in their International Finance class in the second term of the program. That being said, the presentation was a much-needed review of some key finance concepts, and also went into more detail on certain aspects of China’s currency policy, such as the fact that China has one currency used for onshore trading (i.e. trading within China), referred to as CNY, and another currency used for offshore trading, referred to as CNH (see here for a fuller explanation).


Networking after the presentation

With any networking event, I often say it is good to go there with at least a general goal in mind of what you want to accomplish there. Do you want to meet new people and build connections that could potentially lead to jobs later on? Do you want to learn about a specific topic that is covered at the event? Or do you simply want to practice your networking skills, like how to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never spoken with before, or practice your elevator pitch? All are great goals to have when going to networking events, but I will add that sometimes I feel it is good enough to just get out there (“there” being the business community) and see who else is in attendance at these events, and see what opportunities are available. Portland has a relatively small and close-knit business community, and what I’ve discovered from going to a variety of networking events is that often the same people are going to the same kind of events, month after month. Sound repetitive? Maybe. But what’s great about this is that the more events you go to, the more you will recognize and become familiar with people in the business community, and the more they will become familiar with you. And the more familiar people are with you, the more they will begin to think of you when opportunities (i.e. jobs) become available.

So what’s the lesson here? Should a student participate in every networking event that comes their way? Should you always expect to get some tangible outcome from networking, like a handful of business cards and people you can connect with on LinkedIn? The answer to each of these points is of course no, not necessarily. The MIM program keeps students very busy, and it is not possible to go to every networking opportunity, but getting out to at least one event a month is both manageable and makes sure that you are actively getting involved and meeting new people.

If you are interested in learning more about China and building contacts with people doing business there, the Northwest China Council puts on some great events that are worth checking out. So whether you are in the MIM program, or interested in learning more about business opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, I encourage you to get out and network as much as possible.

Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for more information on the Master of International Management program.

Joshua Thorpe is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program.  After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou.  Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.

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Filed under China, Josh's Entries, Networking

TED Talk: A Tale of Two Systems

As an international management program continually studying the history, business, and current events of other countries, it should come as no surprise that we cover China extensively under these topics. Recently I came across a TED Talk entitled “A Tale of Two Political Systems” by Eric Li which caused me to reassess some of the political assumptions I had about China. Below I give my response to this TED Talk (found here) which by no means represents the attitudes or opinions of everyone involved in the MIM program.

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Filed under China, Juli's Entries

Northwest China Council New Year Banquet

IMG_9208The Northwest China Council held their annual New Year Auction and Banquet this year on Saturday, February 23rd. The MIM program reserved a special table for students, faculty, and staff. This year’s event included both silent and live auctions that featured a variety of Chinese and Asian-themed items, as well as a 10 course meal, and a Lion Dance to start the evening. It was a great way for students and staff to connect more, and to participate in a community cultural event.IMG_9182

The Northwest China Council is a non-profit group that promotes Chinese cultural, business, and education in Portland. They regularly organize cultural and educational activities and workshops, as well as business networking events for those interested in Oregon-China business connections. IMG_9183

For more information on the NW China Council and a list of upcoming events, please see here.


Joshua Thorpe is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program.  After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou.  Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.

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Filed under China, Josh's Entries, MIM GENERAL