Eight Thoughts on Shanghai and Beijing

The University of Oregon’s ninth annual Engaging Asia trip this past September was my first foray into Asia, and we were able to visit some pretty incredible and historic places in a little over two weeks.

We spent the middle part of our trip in China’s two biggest cities, starting in the south in Shanghai before taking the train up north to Beijing. Thanks to some relationships through the school (and many gracious alumni), we were able to take in a lot in each city. Here are my eight (since it is considered a lucky number in China) takeaways from our time in Shanghai and Beijing.

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1. Scale. Everything in China (and particularly Shanghai) is massive. It is the world’s largest city, after all. Endless skyscrapers lined the smoggy sky during our drive in from the airport. The downtown combines the size of New York with the lights and glamour of Las Vegas. In Beijing, the city seemed to stretch on forever. It had much more of a ‘city feel’ to it than Shanghai, which was more of an oversized downtown (at least in the areas that we visited).

2. The middle class. China’s middle class is increasing very rapidly in size, and this boom has really propelled the economy forward. The Chinese are consuming more entertainment, sports, and technology than ever before. This meant lots and lots and lots of stores, shops, factories, and things for you to buy and consume. Everywhere.

3. The factories. We were toured around several factories in Shanghai by Josh Warsaw, the nephew of Jim Warsaw (the namesake of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center). Josh has been working in Shanghai for over a decade and gave us a crash course education in China and the manufacturing industry in Asia. Having exposure to the development and manufacturing of many of the products we consume in the United States, at the beginning of the life cycle, was very interesting and not something that many people get exposure to.

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4. Street ping pong is very real. Just as you would see a basketball court in the middle of the city in the United States, there were sweaty and shirtless men playing ping pong in the middle of Beijing (in front of a pretty decent sized crowd, too). As a very amateur ping pong player, I didn’t feel brave enough to test my skills against them.

5. The culture. And more specifically, the cultural differences between Shanghai and Beijing. As a primarily English-speaking travel group, we had a lot more trouble navigating our way around Beijing compared to Shanghai (although having a Beijing native in our group definitely helped when it came to ordering food and figuring out the subway system). There is also an intense rivalry between people from Shanghai and Beijing – as a Canadian, this reminded me of the way Toronto is viewed by the rest of the country (and vice versa).

6. Food. Lots of it. We were treated to some pretty incredible food in both cities. I am an adventurous eater thanks to my upbringing (exposure to sushi before turning one probably helped), and the highlight of the time in China from a food perspective was definitely hot pot in Beijing after our morning at the Great Wall of China. I’d recommend the beef stomach, but I wouldn’t recommend dropping it onto the flame (I had to get a second hot pot from the restaurant and I could tell that the waitresses were unimpressed with my chop stick failure).

7. Nike’s RISE campaign in China. Warsaw alum Adam Antoniewicz walked us through the strategy and execution of Nike’s most recent basketball campaign in China (here is a look at Episode 1 of RISE). If I am able to work on one thing in my career as successful – both from a personal and professional standpoint – as this campaign, I would be a happy man. The way that this campaign connected with and motivated an entire country of youth through sport was incredible to hear about.

8. The weather. We had a lot of smog in China, as we were warned about, but we were treated to gorgeous day of sunshine and blue skies in Beijing (as you can see in the picture at the top of this post). On that day all of the locals from Beijing were telling us how lucky we were.

Written by Jeff Angus

Jeff is a 2015 MBA Candidate at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. He was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada and obtained a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of Victoria (BC) in 2009.He frequently shares his thoughts on Twitter @anguscertified and is passionate about writing, storytelling, fitness, health, and everything and anything sports-related.