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Tour Report: The View from China

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Maya Raichura
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Tour Report: The View from China - July 20th, 2012

Hiking along the Great Wall of China was a cultural highlight of the East Asia tour.

This post is part of a series following the “Pre-MBA World Tour,” a program of international trips organized by incoming students in the class of 2011.

During the month of July, approximately 30 incoming Columbia students traveled through East Asia with the goals to experience life in East Asian countries by immersing ourselves in the different cultures and to learn about local economies and how business is conducted in the area. The month-long journey included visits to six countries, nine cities and 12 companies.

East Asia is rich in history and we were able to see it firsthand with a guided tour through the National Palace Museum in Taipei, a hike to the Great Wall in Beijing and a visit to the demilitarized zone in South Korea. The area is also rich in culture, customs and cuisine and we were fortunate enough to learn about them through the eyes of fellow admitted students living in these cities, who acted as our student ambassadors. We will all walk away with fond memories of Jessica Lam ’11 and her parents showing us how to eat local Chinese cuisine in Hong Kong, Kevin Coll ’11 teaching us how to pray to Buddhist deities in the Longshan Temple in Taipei and Jessie Yang ’11 and Janie Kim ’11 demonstrating the proper way to hold chop sticks in Seoul.

One thing that amazed us was the constant juxtaposition of historic relics from the different East Asian dynasties and Buddhist temples with Western-style restaurants, retail stores and corporations. We took many pictures of traditional Chinese temples and markets where the background contained record-setting Shanghai skyscrapers that were home to some of the largest U.S. and European financial institutions in the world.

As Columbia students, we were granted an insider’s view to several of these financial institutions and other companies with significant presence in Asia, including the Hong Kong Trade Commission in Hong Kong, Bertlesmann Media and Goldman Sachs in Beijing, SK Telecom in South Korea and Toyota in Osaka.

The most interesting company visits occurred in China where we learned about the challenges of doing business in a heavily regulated environment. First, we heard from representatives from the Hong Kong Trade Commission who are of the opinion that the People’s Republic of China will shift to a more capitalist, less-regulated society in preparation for Hong Kong’s economic and political integration with the mainland in approximately 40 years.

The students visited Goldman Sachs in Beijing.

We also heard from an investment banker at Goldman Sachs in Beijing who was not as optimistic about the deregulation, given the recent rejection of Coca Cola’s proposed $2.4 billion acquisition of Huiyuan Juice Group by the China Ministry of Commerce. However, she remained hopeful that M&A regulation would decrease and both international and domestic M&A would increase as the Chinese government and Chinese businesses recognize the importance of M&A to the growth and success of the Chinese economy.

Last, we heard from an equity research analyst at Goldman Sachs who felt that China’s recent announcement, which stated that the government will allow domestic companies to make foreign investments using the renminbi, China’s local currency, is a step in the right direction for deregulation and a more free trade economy.

All the company visits left us intrigued and spurred many debates, especially about where the different East Asian economies are heading and how these nations’ political and economic decisions will affect the U.S. and the rest of the world.

This World Tour experience proved to be a success with all of us for gaining more knowledge of East Asian culture, increasing our interest in East Asian economics and politics and building life long friendships with our fellow classmates.

Photos courtesy of Maria Testani ’11

Read the prior Tour Report blog post from Iran.



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