Day Three: What a CUFE Bunch

Today the Pittsburgh bunch visited CUFE, the Central University of Finance and Economics, a top business school in China. We traveled out to their main campus on the outskirts of Beijing and began with a lecture from a CUFE marketing professor, Dr. Yao. Dr. Yao discussed big data and its applications, personalized marketing, e-commerce in China, smartphone marketing, and the differences between the U.S. and China in the traditional market. One huge use of big data aggregation and analysis in the Chinese market is the construction of credit reports. China doesn’t have a centralized credit reporting system, so if you were to go to the bank and ask them for a report, it would only include the limited activity that you have had from that specific bank. Since it is costly to request a credit report ($5USD each) from every bank for every user, internet services looking to estimate a user’s credit by tracking what and how much a user purchases. This information can also be used to provide a level of personalized marketing that is beneficial by showing the user only advertisements that feel relevant to the user. Dr. Yao introduced that with a rapidly growing internet population of primarily mobile phone users, China’s mobile e-commerce is one of the largest markets in the country. Mobile payment on platforms such as WeChat and AliPay drive the country, used from online shopping to buying food from street vendors. Following the lecture, the class discussed the troubles of Chinese smartphone companies such as Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo entering the Chinese market, owing primarily to due troubles with the American government.

After the professor’s Q&A session, a student ambassador came up to Jacob and I to clarify a question I had about strength of cell service in the western countryside of China. He told us about how rural areas suffer the same issues as America in terms of a lack of service coverage, but because about three-quarters of China’s population lives on the urban East coast it isn’t a large problem. He also said that the Chinese government is sponsoring the development and implementation of 5G signal, which should greatly improve coverage in all areas of the country. This student introduced himself as Allen, a second-year Marketing and Finance major. One of the first things Allen asked Jacob and I is if we watched Friends. Friends is popular in China, and Michelle in the student ambassador group had watched the whole series several times. At lunch we talked about the classes we had taken, what we did in our free time, and life as a Chinese college student. When I asked Allen if he played any sports, he said he swam and played table tennis, but not as often as he would like. He said that when he was in high school, life was centered around school and only school. It made sense; to get into CUFE, Allen had to score in the top 1,000 out of the 700,000 (top 0.14%) graduating students in the Sichuan province on the state-run college entrance exam. While I do have my complaints with the U.S. college application process, I could not imagine being represented with only a high school transcript and one college admissions test.

Jacob, Allen, and I with some calligraphy underneath the CUFE library

Our guides brought us to the main library on campus, a towering six-story behemoth housing hundreds of students and ten times as many books. It was very modern, file2-1completed in 2015, and cost $30 million USD to build. The basement housed the largest auditorium on campus, and the hallways were lined with calligraphy and the artwork of students. When touring the rest of the library, I was fascinated by the easily-accessible newspaper storage, and sloped reading desks that seemed like they could make great additions to the Hillman library at Pitt. On the ground floor, there was a unique digital seat reservation kiosk. In order to study in the library, students used their ID in order to sign into a specific seat on a floor of their choosing. I thought it was especially interesting to see, because earlier in the spring semester, a group of engineers in Art of Making had prototyped something similar when trying to solve the problem of finding a place to study on campus.

The group moved to the university sports center: a complex of basketball courts, tennis courts, and outdoor lifting equipment, lining the school’s soccer pitch and track. The area was busier than any of the sports centers at Pitt, and one of the student ambassadors said that it was because it was required for every student to take a Physical Education class, part of their six hours of classes every day. In the road outside the track, our group did a few activities with our CUFE friends to finish “the icebreaking procedure”. When they broke out a jump rope, we were not prepared in our business casual attire, but we tried our best and managed to get through one-by-one after a few attempts. Sadly after that, we had to say goodbye to CUFE, and Allen said that he would get in touch with us when he comes to America on his own study abroad trip.

After our trip to the financial school, our group traveled by subway to the Beijing

The Water Cube is truly the best Beijing has to offer

Olympic Sports Center. We got to see the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium and Water Cube swimming center. It was an incredibly large walking space on the edge of a such a dense city. We took one more subway train to a marketplace where we were encouraged to haggle before buying anything. It was a wide sidewalk lined with dozens of small storefronts that stretched deeper than one would expect. I was expecting something more like an open-air market with stalls; it didn’t seem like the type of place where you would even be allowed to argue over the price. After taking some time to take a glance at all the stores, it was nearly 11:00pm, and the subways would be stopping soon so most of the Pitt group returned to the hotel.

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