Today we visited the Eastern China University of Science and Technology (ECUST). Once we arrived, we were greeted by Dr. Regina Huang from ECUST’s School of Business. We began with a Q&A about the Chinese financial market. We learned that it would still be some time before China would open their stock market to the world, as they first wanted to strengthen the power of the yuan by making it an internationalized currency. The U.S. dollar can be used in areas such as India to buy goods for equivalent converted prices, but the yuan does not have the same kind of ability in most cases. The Chinese stock market in general is very volatile, which means that there is very little investment from everyday people; banks are the most common way of saving money. Dr. Huang also believes that a trade war between the U.S. and China would hurt both countries, which is consistent from what we’ve heard from other presenters on our trip.
Dr. Huang talked a little about how she learned that we were only first-year students, so she switched up her presentation to better fit our needs. She then talked a lot about the political, financial, and social dynamics of China. She expressed this idea that the “poor must be supported”, which is an idea that is not universally accepted in the United States. She also discussed the role of the government in keeping the annual GDP growth at a high 7%, something that she believes is necessary lest it drop and cause widespread unemployment. Dr. Huang taught us about Chinese elections and how they aren’t like a direct democracy: citizens elect a People’s Representative for their city, who then votes for a provincial representative, who then votes in a member to the People’s Congress. The President is then voted in by simple majority of the 2,980 members of the People’s Congress, a body that can also remove other state officers if need be. At the last convening of the People’s Congress, President Xi Jinping changed the constitution to remove presidential term limits. The people of China are a little split about this decision, but the majority of people are just waiting to see President Jinping’s next actions. They believe there isn’t a suitable replacement for Jinping at this time. The only way to rise to the high position of president is by starting at the bottom, as Jinping did when he lead in the military, then in the Communist party, before finally being elected to his current position. As Dr. Huang says, “Xi Jinping is the most powerful person in the world” due to his incredibly centralized power over the military, the party, and Chinese allies.
Following Dr. Huang’s presentation, we paired off to meet our ECUST student guides. Jared and I met Karen, a graduate student majoring in English Language. We ate at one of the many campus dining halls on campus, and when she asked what we wanted to eat, we trusted her to get us whatever she thought was good. Karen brought back dumplings,
and two kinds of noodles, one that was perfectly spicy and another that Jared could enjoy. It was very funny, when we asked Karen what students did for fun on campus she said, “Not much, we mostly stay in our rooms and play video games.” The students then treated us to ice cream from a corner store right in the middle of campus. We returned to the classroom where we played a few games, one of which involved tossing a Chinese hackey sack (jianzi) around the room like a game of Hot Potato.
Later that night, we went to a Chinese acrobatics show in the Shanghai Centre Theatre. It was absurd display of athleticism, with acrobatics balancing on chairs stacked 20 feet high, hanging onto poles by their legs, and forming human pyramids while balancing on their hands. Jared even got called up on stage to have knives thrown inches from his head.
At the end of the show, the night was still young, so the students passed on the coach bus back to the hotel and walked down Nanjing W Road, a beautifully lit street lined with high end stores and shopping malls. Upon reaching People’s Square in the center of the Huangpu neighborhood, we saw that the next subway train would be arriving in an hour and a half, at about 11:30PM. Since we were only a little further than a three mile walk from our hotel, David and Sarah pulled up their maps and led us on a trek through the middle of Shanghai. Though it was hot and humid, it was definitely worth the opportunity to explore such a large part of the city by foot with friends.