May 9th was our latest morning of the week. It also happened to be the first night I was able to sleep though without waking up, and was followed by another strong breakfast where I branched out in terms of how much fruit and washed goods (I had been very careful eating fresh foods as I was worried about getting food poisoning). In anticipation of the day ahead (which included two different company visits), we were told to wear business attire. Having only brought one set of clothes for business days and having worn them on the day before, I was ready to give them a second run. It consisted of a grey travelling dress shirt, khaki pants, and a red and blue tie. This was one thing that was interesting, as all of the locals wore pants. No one wore shorts anywhere, and it made us stick out as tourists. While probably an unreasonable concern, this increased my worry for potential pickpockets and thieves.
Upon arrival at the Sunshine Insurance Agency, we watched a video about Sunshine’s origins. It was a long video to convey a short point, one that involved their founder going from a great position in the Chinese government, giving it all up, going into poverty for a few months before founding Sunshine Insurance Group. It was all very similar to the success stories of Apple or Pandora, and seemed to be something I had heard before. We watched the video, and soon thereafter went on a tour of what I assumed was going to be what Sunshine Insurance Group is all about. Instead, it was another summary of what their founder had done. They showed us the furniture he worked at while he was starting the business, and showed us the certificate that pronounced Sunshine as a legitimate insurance agency. In all, it gave off a weird vibe, as if the whole company was focused upon this one individual – their founder, Zhang Weigong, who was revered as their leader. Sunshine has had unprecedented growth in recent years, which also made me skeptical of the company.
And while I liked and believed in their ideals, the fact that their employees worked at different compounds made it seem like indentured servitude and only further promoted the uncomfortable feeling that this was an unhealthy organization too focused upon the founder. After the tour, we had a good lunch and left for our next company visit, Xiaomi.
Our visit to Xiaomi felt much different than Sunshine. Xiaomi operated much more like a traditional western company. The people there were there to do their job, and were very good at it. We had previously prepared questions for the tour guide and speaker, and I was intrigued by the answers we received, and it made me want to buy one of their phones. One particular occasion that stuck out was when they spoke how their phones were ceramic. Professor Li jumped up in surprise, leading all of us to laugh a bit. Ceramic phones are much more expensive, and professor Li could not believe that they were selling these phones so cheaply.
After the Xiaomi visit, we headed back and I got dumplings for dinner. This wasn’t as close to as good as the night before, but it was all right. After dinner, about half of the total students decided to head out and have a night on the town, which was fun and a group bonding experience. We headed home and got ready for our visit to the Forbidden City and Tian’anmen Square the next day.