On our second day in Beijing, we took a visit to the Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE for short), to attend a lecture on the rise of the smartphone industry and e-commerce in China. The first speaker was Professor Yao, who gave a talk on how the different conditions in China and the United States influences how people live and do business. For example, China’s huge population and the one child policy mean that most families are small, do not own a car, and live in small apartments. One of the effects of this is that the concept of a large supermarket where people purchase all their food for the upcoming month hasn’t really caught on. This is due to the fact that it is difficult to transport lots of groceries without a vehicle, and also since families do not need to buy as much when there is only one child to feed. Many people nowadays actually buy their groceries online and have them delivered to their apartment—something virtually unheard-of in America. In China, the prevalence of e-commerce and mobile payment is really surprising; people use it for everything from ordering groceries to getting around town on the rental bikes that seem to be everywhere in Beijing.
One thing that really impressed me about the university was how well traveled and globally aware the students were. They all spoke very good English, and the ones I had conversations with had all either studied abroad at some point, or had friends who were. This may have in part been due to the fact that it was a business-oriented school, and China has become increasingly focused on the benefits that come with foreign collaboration. Even so, it was interesting to hear about their impressions of the United States, which were mostly good, especially given that the U.S. doesn’t have a reputation for being the most aware of other countries and cultures. All in all, I definitely felt that by visiting the university I learned a lot not only about the smartphone industry in China, but about the thoughts and ambitions of the next generation of young people there.