China Final Paper
Although I had read the books before going to China, I really didn’t know what to expect when visiting China. Upon arrival, many expectations were proven incorrect. However, I did find that much of the information that I had learned in the books before traveling was true of the Chinese economy, business aspects, culture, and religious. In some ways I expected China to be nicer and less third-world-country-like than what I saw. But regarding other things, China was much more advanced than I had assumed.
The lecture regarding the state of China’s economy with Dr. Young proved to be very valuable and informative for the rest of our trip experiences. During the lecture with Dr. Young, the Director of Finance at the National Institute, I was shocked to hear that China’s GDP is at a 9.9% growth rate, and that they expect it to stay at that rate for awhile. Since July 2005 the Chinese currency has been rising in value because of the current economic growth. I found it interesting that although the GDP is rising, the consumption rate is falling. This was one of the biggest differences that I noticed between the Chinese economy and the American economy – the Chinese save 35% of their income while the rate that Americans save at is -2%. I was quite surprised by this. Even if it means that Americans will go in debt, they will purchase or use something because comfort and convenience is more important than money. We could see that saving money is more important than comfort for the Chinese by observing the warmer working conditions in factories we visited. Because of the decrease in consumer spending, the government is concerned because it will make investments become unbalanced, and if the government tries to balance it, the economy will slow down. The government has to take extra caution when balancing the economy.
Although many of the items in China seem inexpensive to Americans because of the exchange rate, the cost of living in China is very expensive. I was surprised at how much a tiny condo would cost the local Chinese. Due to the cost of living and the effect that the One-child policy has on the economy, it is important for the Chinese to save. The Chinese have a “planning” economy. Because of this, I noticed that every time we would go to Starbucks, there weren’t many Chinese people there. It was either tourists like us, or business men and women occasionally. Since the pay for a good working job at Starbucks was 8RMB per hour, and drinks were 28-35 RMB, it makes sense that we didn’t see many Chinese people in Starbucks. For Americans, a drink at Starbucks costs maybe a half-hours worth of work for a minimum wage worker. For a decent Chinese job, (the Starbucks employees must be able to speak English) it costs the worker almost 4 hours worth of work! This was just one instance of how high the prices were for Chinese nationals.
It was very interesting to me that the government controls the value of the RMB. When the government decides that they want the value to be lower, the rate goes down. Although China has 4 times as many people as the US, the US produces 4 times as much wealth (GDP 14 trillion) compared to China (GDP 3 trillion). Although this is the case now, because of China’s growing GDP rate (9.9%) it is estimated that China will overtake the US economy by 2025. This year they are overtaking Germany who is ranked third in GDP production, and by 2025 will have overtaken Japan and the US. Before visiting China and hearing from Dr. Yong, and Professor Dingli Shen I never knew that this was a possibility of China catching up to the US’s production. Currently China has to deal with the US and do what we want them to do because we are the global leader in the economy. However, once China is in charge of the economy, they will be free to act as they desire, said Professor Shen. I was surprised at how much things may change with China as the global economic producer.
Regarding the economy, I also became very aware of how the rising wages for China’s labor force will affect the whole world’s economy. When labor costs rise, US companies that import will find other places that will provide labor for cheaper. It was said that many jobs will be shipped out to Vietnam. I didn’t realize that the prices of US consumption goods will rise as the labor costs rise. The effect that it has shows that the world is truly a global economy, and that China affects the US greatly.
China’s economic future faces uncertainty due to the global economy adjusting rates lower, international prices rising for commodities, the price of the asset market (if personal asset prices sink so will consumption), and uncertainty in investment growth. However, because of the quickly rising GDP rate, China may catch up to the US as the world’s economic leader.
One of my favorite parts of China was being able to see the factories and businesses. Originally I wasn’t quite sure how Business as Missions played out, even after reading the books for the course. It sounded like a good idea to me, but I wasn’t sure that it could really be effective in practice. After visiting many different types of factories, and especially Bill Job’s I am confident that Business as Missions is really an effective way to share Jesus with others.
When visiting the first Beckett factory, I was shocked at how small it was. When I had thought of a factory, I thought of a giant warehouse with tons of machines. It was great to see the different types of factories ranging from 20 people to a few hundred, and little automation, to a large amount of machines in others. While at Beckett I was surprised how simple the jobs seemed. The machines that the workers did use (which were fewer than I thought) just ran the coil around the part of the burner. As a kid growing up in America, I always wondered where all the parts were made that go into bigger things like toasters and stoves, but I failed to realize that all the small parts had to be made as well. In China is where it is done. The way that the processes were accomplished varied from factory to factory.
One of the greatest things that I learned about factories was Lean Manufacturing from Jim’s talks. It was very interesting to me as I had heard about it in classes before, but it really takes seeing lean put in action in order to completely understand it. Each factory we went to, I would keep asking myself “is this lean?” and then finally when we got to Meixia, I understood what lean was supposed to look like. Lean requires processes to be laid out in the most efficient way. It is important to take into account what the employees think, and how they would redesign the processes. The line at Meixia was definitely lean. There were signs above each “department” with the name of the department and pictures of how the work is supposed to be completed. By doing this, it allows for new workers to completely understand their job within the first half-hour of starting working. When we also went to Lenovo, they had signs stating lean sigma working conditions, which means that they specialize in speed and quality. Lean takes into account that only services that add value to the product is what the customer is willing to pay for. The customer doesn’t want to pay for the time that the product sits on the shelf, so the company must eliminate all waste so that only the things that customers are willing to pay for are done.
When visiting Mr. Kim’s factory where they produced car audio speakers, I was surprised at how non-efficient it was. People were placing individual electrical conductors into the motherboard by hand! This was definitely not what I had expected a factory to be like. It seemed like everything was just thrown together so that processes could be completed, but it wasn’t very efficient. Mr. Kim said that he didn’t have an HR department, and didn’t really see the need to have one because people would be at the gate every morning wanting work. This however causes a turnover problem, because people don’t stay very long working for him, and he loses productivity through having to train and retrain people. I think that it is very important for him to create a plan for retaining the employees who are currently there. Because of the revaluation of the yuan, his factory was hit pretty hard. However, he should have been able to plan for this because it was common knowledge that the yuan’s value was being changed. When talking with others on the trip, it seemed that they agreed that this factory would be one of China’s past. It wouldn’t be able to withstand the rising labor costs and other changes within China’s economy. As stated in Great Commission Companies, it is very important to have a strategy. If your business fails, you most likely won’t be as successful in ministering to your employees when you have to lay off your employees. Business and ministry strategies are very important for a company to have. It didn’t appear that Mr. Kim had a plan for how his business would stay competitive and I think this will be a problem for him in the future.
Although Mr. Kim did seem to care for his employees by providing housing, there was a big difference between the work culture at Mr. Kim’s business and Meixia. You could tell the Bill Job loved his employees, and that they loved him too. He made such an effort to make them feel special and recognize them as people, not just as his employees. His business was definitely one where the mission of the company was to give people a chance to know Jesus while doing work, and supporting the business. He allowed and gave opportunities for co-workers to share their faith, and even in the way that he was teaching his employees to “serve” the next person on the line by producing good work for their “customer” showed how he exemplified their mission of holding eternal things more important than temporal things. I thought it was so important to a missional company to take in the one handicapped worker and take the risk of having him be a part of the production team. What a change he had made in the previous-beggar’s life! You could tell that the boy loved Bill Job and was committed to working for him. I also found it interesting as to how Bill Job continuously received the “Best Boss” award for his province. It goes to show that if you meet people’s emotional and physical needs, you can influence them in spiritual matters as well.
Within businesses in China, we saw that employees are not necessarily loyal to their employers. If they are tired of their job, they will leave. There aren’t really any “switching costs” for them to leave as they aren’t under a contract, so if their boss isn’t good they will leave. However, I found it interesting as to how hard the workers worked. There was much less talking on the production lines than I would have imagined. They were very focused on their jobs. These workers didn’t seem to expect fulfillment from their jobs in the way that Americans do. Although it wasn’t dangerously warm in the factories, it would have been warmer than what Americans are willing to put up with. These workers don’t know any better, and they are satisfied with the job they have. I was surprised that on the Lenovo lines they weren’t allowed to talk. I can’t imagine working all day without talking. I would assume that they have a large turnover because it would be so tedious to constantly screw in the same part and not talk to anyone until your break. There isn’t music in the lines, and you must just fully concentrate on your work. When starting a business in a different culture, it is very important that you act according to that culture. From the reading in Mr. China, I saw how badly things can go if you don’t understand the culture and the way that business is run in China. I feel that Meixia is doing a good job of understanding the way that the employees work and using it to their benefit.
Another important thing that I realized was how a business affects missions work. Through Bill Job’s role at Meixia, he has affected people’s willingness to spiritual matters. The concern that he shows has lead people to question why he is such a caring boss, because most non-Christian bosses don’t care at all. The employees are employees and nothing more. It’s just a job. But through these Christian companies, employees see a difference through how the company is run. At Barrington, the way they cared about their workers lives was through identifying needs that the company could use their resources to help the employees. They educated employees in small ways, such as hanging up maps, English letters, newspapers, and putting on summer camp for the workers’ children. Through all of these ways, the company showed that they cared about more than just the work that was completed – they cared about the employees in a personal way. It was also very important that these businesses had key spiritual people in high positions within the organization. From reading Great Commission Companies I realized the importance of having good business people in these positions. Although missionaries have good hearts, if they don’t have the business skills, it is almost impossible to run a business. A plan has to be made, and the leaders must be godly Christian people, as well as good business people. The balance is very important. Beckett realized that when they had a hired missionary to help infuse Christianity into their company, while still allowing the upper management of the business to run the business aspects. The man was the kingdom builder, who designed programs to help the company share the light of Jesus with their employees. Missions through Business needs to have the balance of missionaries and business people, and also needs to show concern for people’s needs.
I was also surprised at how much the government influences companies. While the Chinese allows American-run businesses a good amount of freedom, when talking with Matthew at SMIC, it interested me as to how much the US government influences his company. Because the US is concerned with China as a political power, they want to make sure that America stays ahead of China in the “intelligence war”. On one occasion, SMIC was producing RAM, which they knew was outdated, but they weren’t allowed to change it to the newest technology because the US government was concerned. The US government didn’t want the logic board technology that SMIC desired to produce to be made in China, because it would provide technology to the Chinese that could help them fight against the US. It really ended up hurting SMIC because they lost a lot of money just because they had to make the US government look good.
Through seeing the factories and businesses in China, I feel like it helped me understand the economy of China much better. I was very surprised by how some of the factories worked, and how many people were in others of them. Within the next few years, many changes will come through the factories of China because of the changing economy.
III. Religious climate:
Like David Aikman said in Jesus in Beijing, it appears that Christianity is spreading through China. China is becoming much more Christianized and could impact the world greatly in the future. I was surprised that just like the book stated how many Chinese people are concerned about global missions and bringing Christianity “Back to Jerusalem”. When visiting the house church, the speaker was a missionary from Figi and through his message and the response of the church, it seemed like the people understand that they not only needed to bring Christianity to their own people, but also to the whole world. It seemed like a much greater concern here in China than in the United States.
From the Chinese people that we interacted with, most seemed very open to Christianity or to religion. Through the books we read before the trip I was anticipating many people being interested in Christianity and going to church and was pleasantly surprised. When visiting Beijing International Studies University, many of the students had asked questions about Jesus. That was really cool for me to see. Many people come to know Jesus through their friends telling them, rather than going to a church and hearing the gospel. At Meixia, most people became Christians because they saw a change in their coworkers who had turned to Christ. The difference in the changed Christian’s personal life was what drew them to want to know Jesus themselves. This is a much better foundation to build Christianity, as it isn’t just based on knowledge, but rather a personal encounter with Jesus. The amount of people that had become saved in such a short time really showed me that the Chinese people are open to Christianity.
I was surprised as how free religion seemed to be. It didn’t appear that the government really cared that much about Christianity. I think this is because of the growth of the Three-Self churches that the government feels they are controlling. Our tour guide Bing openly told us that Christianity was the fourth largest religion in China. I had thought that if the government didn’t want Christianity spread, this would be quickly shut down. The only time I felt the lack of freedom of religion was when we visited Shanghai Christian Fellowship where only international passport holders are allowed to attend. I then thought that it was strange that the Chinese people weren’t allowed to go to this service, because it seemed quite similar to the Three-self church that we visited. Besides this, it seemed that the government and Chinese people were open to spiritual matters, especially in learning about Christianity. When driving past a bookstore, there was a large poster for a CS Lewis book on the window. Like we read, the Chinese people definitely have a hunger to hear the word of God.
I was very grateful that we were able to visit three different churches. When I had read about the Three-self churches, I wasn’t sure that they would be full of people who really wanted Jesus. I thought that it would be watered down Christianity. However, like the Christianity Today article said, “It’s tempting to think of the registered church in a Socialist country as being compromised and neutered, but the churches I visited were vibrant and alive”. Although I wasn’t able to hear the translation of the message at Chaoyang Church in Beijing, from what other people said, it seemed like it was a very theologically strong sermon. After hearing many different things regarding house churches, I was so excited that we were invited to one. It was a very open service and didn’t seem like it was something that was illegal. Apparently the police in their area don’t seem concerned with their church. The neighbors in the building even asked when they saw the large group of white people if we were going to the church upstairs. People knew that the church was held here, and it didn’t seem like a problem. It was such a small group of believers that gathered together; our group easily doubled the size of the church. One concern for these house churches is that since they aren’t connected to a larger body of believers, cultish behavior or beliefs could result. Since normally only the pastor has a good education of the Bible, the congregation doesn’t necessarily know if the teacher is presenting false ideas. This could become a problem for the house churches. In thought it was important though that the house churches had Chinese leaders, rather than Westerners. As shown in Mr. China, it is important to have Chinese leading the people, as they know the culture best. Visiting Shanghai Christian Fellowship, which was led by westerners, was an experience to visit. To have many different races worshipping the Lord was a little taste of what heaven will be like. I was glad that people of all ethnicities were leading on stage, whether in the worship team, giving announcements, or teaching. I loved that we could all sing together. I was surprised as to how many Asia believers there were- those who were from Hong Kong or were American-Chinese. I was very grateful to be able to visit all three of these types of churches because I think it really helped me understand and value the Chinese Christian culture.
I was surprised as to how Christians were view within the Chinese society. Unlike Americans, who often think of Christians in a derogatory light as “goody-two-shoes” or hypocrites, the Chinese treat Christians with respect. The article from Christianity Today (Great Leap Forward, Rob Moll) stated that Christians are the “good” people in China. They’re not someone that you look down upon, like in the US. In China, the Christians are the trustworthy ones whom you want to hire. They have good reputations, and churches are known as being good examples of moral behavior. I wish it was like this in the US. We saw this through how Bill responded with Christianity. He knew that Christianity and the Christians he interacted with made him a better person and that it was a good thing for him to be involved in. This was very encouraging for me to hear that the Christians in China are impacting the view that non-Christians have on them in a positive light.
One of the difficulties that Christian workplaces have had to deal with is favoritism. Many employees think that if they become Christians like their boss, they will be promoted or treated better. Bill Job stated that this was a difficulty that they had to deal with, and he had told his employees to expect to be treated worse and not better because of their faith. He didn’t want people to become saved (or fake being a Christian) in order to seek advancement in their career. I thought that this would be an interesting dilemma that the boss would have to deal with.
One of the biggest problems that I saw regarding Christianity in China was that it was seen as a western religion or western cultural idea. When talking with a student at Beijing International Studies University, when I asked her what religion she was, she replied that she wasn’t really anything although her parents were Buddhist. She asked if I was a Christian, because most Americans are. I didn’t realize how much America is seen as a “Christian” nation. Although this can be a problem, it does allow for a better opportunity for Americans to share about Jesus. According to the Christianity Today article, the Holy Spirit has opened hearts, and many people accept Christ when given the opportunity. This allows Westerners to openly share when the Chinese assume that you know Jesus because you’re American. Also, China sees Christianity as a successful business model because they know that since the West has been successful, they think that if they can have the same belief system, maybe China will be successful as well. They know that God has blessed America, which is seen through Western capitalism, and Christianity can be used to help businesses grow. This could be a problem because it won’t be good for China if they just “use” Christianity as a business model. Although it has a good ethical system, I don’t think that Christianity in the way that America is a “Christian nation” will bring the value that China seeks. Only when hearts continue to be opened to the Lord and people come to know him will China’s ethical values change.
IV. Cultural Climate:
I think the biggest culture shock for me going to China was how little people understood English. I had assumed that most people would be able to communicate with us. It was very frustrating for me to not be able to communicate. Even when we went in a taxi, you couldn’t just write down in the English letters where you wanted to go. You needed the Chinese characters, which was something that I couldn’t duplicate very well. Many times, I couldn’t even tell what kind of a store we would drive past, because you can’t understand the characters. I had thought that most people would know English and really want to practice speaking with us. I thought it was interesting what Bill had said about the Chinese learning English- those who learn in school just memorize words, but don’t really put them into practice. When this happens, after the students finish school, they don’t retain very much of the language. Bill said that he wanted to become a really good speaker, so he would read the English newspaper to learn new words. He wanted to make sure that he wasn’t talking in the 1800’s-type-of-language, but used current slang that we would use in America. I thought it was interesting how excited he was about English. He really wanted to be able to speak just as well as we all could.
One thing that could affect the student’s English is the lack of creativity that happens in the classroom. From talking with different people we learned that in school students just memorize things. They aren’t taught to think outside the box, or be innovative. Due to this I think that Americans probably have more technology and creative ideas than the Chinese do. This way that they would teach, in not encouraging young people to be creative, would influence much of Chinese culture. Also, within businesses, the structure is much more hierarchical because employees wait to be told what to do rather than try to figure things out on their own. I noticed how much we Americans don’t like restrictions placed on us and how very individualistic we are. When we went to Xiamen and Jenny was taking us around the island, no one wanted to follow her. We all wanted to go off and do our own thing. From what I saw, this is very different than Chinese culture.
I found it interesting that American beauty was something coveted. When visiting department stores, or drug stores, many times there were pictures of white girls on the advertisements, or they were Chinese people who looked very American. Lighter skin is prized and if you’re white, you’re beautiful. Many times people would come up to our group and ask to take pictures with us, and sometimes they would try to be sneaky and pretend like they weren’t taking pictures of us from farther away. Even times when Christie and I would go somewhere, they would tell her “your friend/s are beautiful” referring to me or some of the other girls. They wouldn’t say that we all were beautiful, but only those of us who were white. I thought this was an interesting observation.
When shopping we noticed a difference of how Americans buy things compared to the Chinese. In America, we ask the price of something to determine whether we want to buy the product or not. If the price is high, we think whether we really want it or not. In China, if you ask the price, then you must want it, and they will bargain with you until you walk out of the store with the product. I found it interesting that there wasn’t any differentiation between the vendors. They don’t have any competitive advantage from the person next to them selling. They all sell the same thing, and they bargain, so it’s not like you decide where to buy depending on the cheapest price. You just pick the person with whom you want to do business with, and bargain with them. I would think that if I was one of the vendors, I would try to find out what Americans really wanted to buy and try to sell that rather than the same souvenirs that everyone else was selling.
When listening to Professor Shen’s lecture, I realized how much China’s government still is in control of what the people do. China is still really a Communist country. I think that the US is controlled by the government, but we don’t really realize it. Because of the recent earthquake, China has really started to allow freedom in to the country. Because of problems with Tibet, everything prior to the earthquake was strictly controlled, but the government decided to take a chance and let whoever wanted to report about the crisis do so. The first thing that really made me realize how much China subtly controlled people’s freedom was when I was unable to log into my blog. It didn’t say that the page was blocked or anything, I just couldn’t load it. I finally figured out that blogs are a place where people are free to discuss whatever they want, and have the freedom to say anything they want about the government. Since there isn’t really free speech in China, it makes sense that they would block blogs or other personal websites! I also found it interesting that the government charged a very high price for residents to buy a license plate in Shanghai. The cost was almost the same price as a car would be, and in order to drive on the freeways you had to have this license plate. It was just one way that the government could control the crowding on the streets. Also, like it was stated in Mr. China, it appeared that it was difficult to run a business in China because of the “red tape”. With most of the American run businesses, there wasn’t too much interference on the part of the Chinese government, but it did appear that there were internal cultural rules that you would need to know in order to do business and succeed.
The way that the government controls people can cause Americans to see the culture as one that shows a lack of human intrinsic value. When listening to Professor Shen, I felt like he was saying that China is better because it only allows those who are competent and well educated to vote. This is very different than America where we think of all men as “created equally”. I think that this is greatly built on Christianity. It does make sense that you should only let the educated people vote, as they will probably make better decisions, but treating everyone as a person, no matter how smart or educated they are is something that is highly valued in America, which is very different from Chinese culture. Interestingly, China isn’t considered a melting pot. When people come to China, they come to conquer, not to immigrate. This creates a different culture. It’s not like America where we value diversity and want people to keep their traditions of their culture. One thing that Professor Shen said that I thought was interesting was that Democracy isn’t always a good thing. He said that often times, a majority of people can be wrong. You only need one smart person to know what’s right to actually do it, but with democracy if everyone is misled, the majority still rules. He stated that it is now time for China to stand up for Communism and the good system that it is. Until this lecture with Professor Shen, I didn’t see that China was still heavily a Communist country. For some people, communism doesn’t seem to affect their way of life very much. They would live their life almost in the same way that we Americans do. However, sometimes it appears so deeply ingrained in people’s culture that it’s very obvious.
The biggest difference in culture that I noticed was the effect that the One-Child Policy had on many areas of life. When talking with a leader at Beckett, he stated that it’s difficult to find employees who are team players and know how to deal well with other people because of the One-child policy. There is a lack of teamwork that comes from being an only child. Although these children have to work with other students sometimes in the classroom, since they are the only child, they are spoiled by their parents and both sets of grandparents. Most families in China consist of seven people- 2 Grandmas (mom’s side and dad’s side), 2 Grandpas (mom’s side and dad’s side), Mom, Dad, and Child. Therefore, when a child is born, if he or she isn’t perfect, the parents would rather “dispose” of the child and try to have a “better” child. Since this child is the parent’s only chance of making the world a better place, there is a lot of pressure on the child to do well in school. Children are the prized possession of the parents in China. One of the reasons that the earthquake that recently hit was so devastating was because many schools collapsed, along with the parents’ only child. This policy also affects the economy because 1 married couple will have to support 4 parents and their retirement, which is why the saving rate in China is so high. It would appear that the child would be lonely, but when talking with some locals, they had stated that groups of families join together and are seen in a sense as a big extended family, where the children will call the adults Aunt and Uncle. Community is then created through these groups of families helping each other out. The One-Child policy has greatly affected culture, community, and the economy in many different ways.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed my experience in China. I learned so many things about the economy, the way of business, and the religious and cultural climate in China. I was very surprised at the amount of people that were in China. There were condos everywhere. No one really owned houses, because there wouldn’t be enough space in the city for people to live. In my first paper, I had said that I was surprised that 1.2 billion people fit in China. When visiting China, I still couldn’t believe how many people were there everywhere. The most crowded place that I thought we visited was Nanjing Street. There just seemed to be a sea of people everywhere!
I was very glad that we got to visit different cities within China. Each city had a different feel to it, and it was interesting to see how Xi’an was the historical China, Beijing was the newer China, and Shanghai was like the New York City of America. Shanghai was very clean and high tech compared to the other cities. I was very surprised even that the subway was so nice.
When visiting the history museum in Shanghai I was surprised as to how old China is! I knew that it had existed as a country for many centuries, but to see so many historical artifacts in this one museum showed me how old and large the country of China is.
One of the greatest things that I learned was how Business as Missions functions. It truly was captured through the lives of employees and stakeholders being changed within the businesses that we visited in China. Meixia fully epitomized a Great Commission Company: A Great Commission Company (GCC) is defined as a socially responsible, income-producing business managed by kingdom professionals (those who work for God with the focus of bringing people to Jesus through their work) and is created for the specific purpose of glorifying God and promoting the growth and multiplication of local churches in the least-evangelized and least-developed parts of the world. “Christianity spreads fastest when Christians are not just proclaiming, but also modeling the gospel. …What better way to demonstrate and proclaim the love of Christ to a hurting world than through a GCC?” (25). I fully agree that working alongside people through a business is a great way to share the love of Christ with people, and it was exemplified that this type of work is possible throughout the China trip.
© Amanda Zook 2008