For our final international module on the MBA program, the full-time class went on a study trip to China. Visiting Xiamen and Hong Kong, the trip aimed to give us an insight into the considerable economic achievement as well as the cultural and institutional practices in China. We set off on Saturday morning, flying from Dublin to Heathrow to Hong Kong and on to Xiamen. Xiamen is a beautiful coastal city in the Fujian Province in China, however being wet season, we arrived to thunder storms, lashing rain and approximately 90% humidity. Our first challenge was to make it from the airport terminal to the bus (which was parked only 50 meters away). Safe to say we all got soaked! We arrived at the lovely Lujiang Harbourview Hotel, checked in, dried off and headed back out for dinner at RongYu Restaurant where we sampled a variety of Chinese delicacies such as fried jellyfish and chicken heads. It was an interesting experience to say the least! A stroll through the city showed there was plenty more interesting food waiting for us…
The next morning we set off for lectures at Xiamen University. We had a mix of lectures from Smurfit’s Prof. Pat Gibbons and Xiamen University’s Prof. Lei Meng. We learnt about the growth and structural changes in China over the past two decades and how China has emerged from its hyper growth phase into a medium to slow growth phase. With the increasing growth rate of wages for low skilled labour, China is losing its competitive advantage in the manufacturing sector compared to some other Asian countries. The challenge China is now facing is how to best manage this transition. However, the government keep changing the policies to manage this transition which is causing more uncertainty in the country. After lunch we met some of the students from Xiamen who gave us tour of the impressive university campus and the nearby Buddhist temples. We enjoyed a lovely vegetarian dinner in Nanputuo Temple before returning to our hotel.
The next day we returned to Xiamen University for lectures with Prof. Pat Gibbons and Prof. Chen Yan. We learnt about China’s business environment and business strategy. There are many aspects to doing business in China that are significantly different to how business is conducted in the west. For example, China has a high context culture where relationships are paramount and one must pay attention to rules. Furthermore, China’s ‘face culture’ means that they don’t let people lose face in public regardless of the situation. After lunch, we took a ferry to Gulangyu Island which is the third largest island off the coast of Xiamen. A guided tour of the island showed us it’s off beat colonial architecture, lovely beaches and piano museum. With temperatures reaching 36°C and 90% humidity it was an eventful afternoon.
The next morning we returned to Xiamen University for our final lecture before saying good bye to Xiamen and leaving for our flight to Hong Kong. On the coach transfer from the airport to our hotel in Hong Kong we got a taste of the scale of the city with its stunning skyline and majestic mountains in the background. Once checked in, we enjoyed a buffet dinner in our hotel and explored the city.
The next day we visited three very different businesses – Invest HK, Memorigin and Huawei. Invest HK is an investment agency for the government of Hong Kong who promote Hong Kong as a preferred location for businesses to set up and support foreign businesses located in Hong Kong. Memorigin is a Hong Kong brand that produces tourbillion watches and Huawei is a global leader of ICT solutions. These companies gave us a great insight into Hong Kong economy and the opportunities and challenges facing businesses who operate in the region. That evening we went to Kowloon to watch the laser show from the impressive city skyline, followed by dinner and a trip to the night market.
On our final day in Hong Kong we visited four businesses. First up were two impressive start-up companies namely Snapask and Horizon which gave us further insight into the type of entrepreneurial activity going on in Hong Kong and some of the key challenges they face. For example, Snapask, a Learning App, explained how they needed to build a completely different product if they wanted to expand into mainland China with different payment system, login system, etc. therefore they are focusing on expanding into other south east Asian countries. We then met with CBRE Group which is a real estate service provider and a fortune 500 company. This talk enlightened us with how competitive the real estate market in Hong Kong is. Our final visit was to Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm, who explained how their business operates and gave insight into the current job market in Hong Kong. We finished off the unforgettable trip with a beautiful dinner at The Peak Lookout restaurant.
Muireann McCarthy ~ Full-Time MBA