Engaging Asia Part II: Shanghai

Whoever said that China is a developing country must use Shanghai to argue the opposite.  Coming from Mumbai, where extreme wealth is adjacent to extreme poverty and being the largest democracy in the world is a point of pride, Shanghai seemed to have the upper hand in the amount of development.  Perhaps it was where we were staying (Le Meridien on Nanjing Road).  (In case you were wondering this is the main road of all authentic high end shopping in the city.  Not quite my scene, but I divest.) Or the fact that with all the clean streets and flashing lights, I realized I was looking at the shiny new toy of a communist country.  The “hey look at this…and this…and this.  China rocks and is one of the cool kids now.  Yay!”  Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Shanghai.  It was clean, I felt safe walking around alone at night, and from an architecture perspective the buildings were really cool.  There are not many skyscrapers in the US that look like a bottle opener or will have a neat spiral for over a hundred floors and only has 65% (or less) space efficiency.  But having many of my courses refer to India and China as both “developing nations,” the differences between Mumbai and Shanghai illustrated how large that developing spectrum actually is.

Like in Mumbai, we had some time to explore the city and play tourist.  Our red eye flight led to a tired first day in China.  I can honestly say that my whole concept of space is vary skewed.  With time and plane changes it took almost 12 hours to travel from Mumbai to Shanghai!  (It always looked so close on the map.)  However, unlike Mumbai, our tourist time was spread out through the time we were there.  We would have afternoons off or given more freedom in the evenings to explore the city.  The subway system was super easy to navigate which made exploring that much more fun.  I will say taking the faculty to a pearl market they have never been to where you had to negotiate your prices for the first time was quite satisfying.

Tourism and bargaining for treasures was not the only highlight of the trip, we did have some pretty cool meetings as well.  There was definitely a financial emphasis with this city with visits to Mapletree Investments, Qiming Ventures, and the Shanghai Stock Exchange.  There is a move to make Shanghai the financial hub of China rather then Hong Kong.  However, from a personal point of view, the best visitations were to the Weiden and Kennedy office (a creative marketing powerhouse originating from Portland, OR) and our lunch discussion with Rob Schmitz, the China correspondent for NPR (National Public Radio).  Rob was able to provide a perspective that both positive and critical of China as well as US business attitudes.  We could have chatted with him longer than the 3 hours we took up discussing topics ranging from pollution to government regulation to commonly witnessed business mistakes to how he arrived in China.  Having that journalistic perspective definitely made Shanghai seem more real and placed it in the view of China as a whole.

To sum up Shanghai, Rob Schmitz said it best, “it is where China meets the rest of the world.”  And when you meet someone new, you always want to put your best face forward.  Shanghai was just that!

Written by Jenny Palm

Jenny a current Oregon MBA and Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. When she is not busy exploring how she can change the world, you can find her outside doing almost anything...especially finding that secret stash of powder on her skis! She has hopes to either help develop an awesome outdoor-oriented start-up or flex her organizational prowess in ski resort event operations.