After sleeping through my alarm for the first time this trip, I rushed into the shower, threw on my clothes, and hurried to the lobby by our 7:30 meeting time. As we settled into our seats on the bus, we were greeted by Sarah, a Pitt graduate who has lived in Shanghai for the past 7 years. After studying Chinese for several years in college and participating in study abroad programs to China while obtaining her degree in marketing, Sarah worked in the United States briefly and then relocated to China for work. She explained her experiences, beginning with her transition from life in America to life in China. She stated that the most impactful aspect of her acclimation to China was a new sense of independence. As a young adult in a foreign country with a basic understanding of the language, Sarah was largely on her own. Although this beginning period was difficult and at times lonely, she expressed that overcoming these obstacles was empowering and rewarding. She developed close friendships, continued to improve her knowledge of the Chinese language, and learned the unique elements of the professional environment. As China’s economy grows and the country assumes a leading position in global business, learning Mandarin to work in Chinese industry is becoming a necessity rather than a recommendation. Just as the international commercial activity of the United States and the United Kingdom demanded a working knowledge of English for many foreign business affairs, non-native Chinese businessmen must now understand Chinese to be successful. One of the most fascinating aspects of Sarah’s talk was related to the differences in the professional atmosphere between China and the United States. Colleagues share more familial, intimate relationships in China. Connections between employees are more personal forming a close-knit community of workers. In alignment with Confucian values, one’s boss is viewed as a father figure. The boss, therefore, is expected to lead his subordinates as he/she would lead his/her family. However, the authority differential between employer and employee or boss and subordinate is much larger in China. For example, one’s boss is often referred to as just that: laoban, which means boss in Chinese. Our exchange with Sarah answered many of my questions regarding the Chinese work environment and the primary professional philosophies that govern business.
With the two hour trip behind us, we arrived at a Yangshan Shanghai Port off the Yangtze River which has become the busiest container port in Asia. The 49 acres was satiated with a wide variety of shipping vessels positioned beneath immense cranes. We then drove to Lingang Modern Logistics, a subsidiary logistics company of the state-owned Shanghai Lingang Group. This company has leveraged its advantageous position to provide their warehouse services to 19 companies. We were given an overview of the company and then driven out to a branch of the port currently managing the unloading process of an automobile shipment of 2300 units. Afterwards, we returned to the nearby facility and were provided a great lunch representative of typical Chinese meal. This lunch included pork, turtle, snails, and vegetables, which was slightly more exotic than our previous meals. At the conclusion of lunch, we thanked our hosts and left for the hotel.