The study trip to China, which is offered every two years, enables students to visit not only Beijing - the cultural and political center of China - but also China's most important industrial metropolis, Shanghai.
The International Week China will focus on lectures at the renowned Tongji University in Shanghai as well as at the Foreign Trade Chamber and visits to the Chinese representations of renowned German companies such as Bosch, Airbus, Siemens, Dräger, Volkswagen, Körber Engineering, Kuehne + Nagel, ... Visits to Chinese companies will also take place. Rounded off by an extensive cultural programme - which also includes the Great Wall of China - this International Week leads to a deeper understanding of the politics, economy and culture of Asia's leading economy.
Report of International Week China 2018:
Our arrival in Beijing (Beijing) coincides with the holiday commemorating the ancestors, known as the Qingming Festival. These are the first warmer days in China. Mild temperatures, red and white blossoming cherry trees and mostly blue skies accompany us during the first week of our trip. This makes the impressive historical sites such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China and the Heavenly Palace appear in a fairytale ambience. The images that open up to us are reminiscent of the sets of a Chinese opera. We saw the latter as well as a kungfu show live. Despite the many battles and conquests this city has seen, the original Ming Dynasty Beijing has retained its 15th century structure. Even the village-like historic hutongs (alleys) show us a traditional China, less affected by the economic boom. In the parks in particular, time seems to stand still. Shady squares are densely populated by elderly locals, where one chess duel follows the next. Only the numerous selfie sticks and extensive security checks at all entrances remind us of the here and now. The dreamy eye is brought back to the present, at the latest, when it plunges into the traffic. Flexible - that's how our tour guide Mrs. Li expressed herself regarding the local way of driving. To our perception of safety and order in German road traffic, it is like a chaotic and noisy mess. Here we learned: Who honks, has right of way!
Despite all the adversities of the crowded roads, we always reached the appointments at company visits on time with our small coach. Among other things, we gained interesting insights into the production of the largest Chinese manufacturer of dairy products, Mengniu Dairy. Even though the company, which has approx. 30,000 employees, operates with a strong market position within China, international competition is also present here. In this industry in particular, corporate social responsibility plays a special role: since 2008, as a result of food scandals involving contaminated milk powder products in the baby food sector, Mengniu Dairy has anticipated food safety and quality as its primary corporate objective, and this is precisely its corporate responsibility towards the Chinese population.
We received another impressive example of global companies during our visits to Beijing Benz Automotive Co. Ltd. and Hyundai Motor Corporation. While the Mercedes models for distribution in China require only minor adjustments in terms of body length compared to the European model, the Japanese passenger cars undergo a high degree of customization. In line with the guiding principle "Act globally, think locally", a wide variety of variants of a model are created here, depending on the region of China.
Inspired by the variety and diversity of China, we travel on to Shanghai after five days in Beijing. We make a short detour on our journey to Tianjin. Within just over thirty minutes we reach the Tianjin railway station by high-speed train. The important port city has a lot to offer on about 12,000 km². But we only have a few hours to visit a recently completed architectural masterpiece of our time: the Tianjin Binhai Library contains 1.2 million books arranged in terraces around a floor-to-ceiling sphere (the auditorium). The speed and architectural sophistication with which real estate is built in Tianjin is impressive!
Less sophisticated in architecture, but all the more utility-oriented, is the factory hall of the Tianjin-based Airbus plant. Standing in the production hall, you might think you were in Hamburg, Finkenwerder. The Chinese plant is structured exactly the same as its northern German counterpart for efficient training of production staff, cross-border communication and processing.
Just before midnight on April 11, we finally reach the centre of Shanghai - taking the Maglev train from the airport to the hotel. Even at this hour, the dynamism of the city is palpable. Just impressed by a library, here on the city's famous promenade (the Bund) one skyscraper rises next to the other. In alternating bright colors, the skyscrapers reflect the immense economic growth of modern China. The culinary offerings are also varied. Those who crave more international cuisine after Peking duck, hot pot (Chinese fire pot), dumplings (Chinese dumplings) and other tasty national dishes will find it here. Especially in the evening the choice is manifold and we are looking forward to four more days in Shanghai, where we visit for example a jazz club with dinner, a French pastry shop and one or the other bar with a roof terrace. Shanghai is young and international. We let ourselves drift through the busy Shanghai and visit among other things the Yu Yuan Garden in the middle of the city. Between large ponds with glittering fish, which are just as agile as the lively bustle in the adjacent bazaar, lies the park, which was first laid out in the middle of the 16th century (Ming Dynasty). If you haven't brought back any souvenirs for home yet, shop here. But the busy artists' quarter Tian Zi Fang is also ideal for shopping - or for the old Chinese stone gatehouses (shikumen), which have largely disappeared from the scene in Shanghai.
We get an introduction to Chinese writing and history at Tongji University from Marcus Hernig, professor of sinology at the German-Chinese University in Shanghai. Arriving at an interactive seminar on the development of the Chinese economy and its international relevance, we are confirmed in our impressions regarding China's emerging megatrends. The ongoing urbanization and economic boom have long since lifted the country out of its status as a low-wage country. China is an international economic player, on a par with Western industrial nations. The country's challenges are also similar to ours, for example in the preservation of cultural heritage or digitisation in industry and society.
How digitalization is addressed by corporations such as Siemens and Bosch was discussed during one of our recent company visits. Siemens, as a strong market player in the field of automation systems, is already able to offer one hundred percent digitalized factory on the market. In some industries, Industry 4.0 may still be a dream of the future, for example at Fabio Perini (Körber Solutions), the manufacturer of packaging machines we visited. In the area of infrastructure, the large-scale progress of digitalization is clearly visible. This was shown to us by a Bosch engineer in the simulation laboratory for optical monitoring systems (e.g. with facial recognition). Some of the surveillance systems are already being used to punish traffic violations. Here, the Chinese sense of community takes precedence over the individual's right to privacy. The debates on this can be endless and...
"The journey is the destination."
This is how the Chinese scholar Confucius is said to have said it in about 500 BC. And yet, for many of us, a stated goal of this trip was "To see and experience China once." Another check mark on the bucket list. But Confucius was right: it's not the checked off item on a list that is formative. This trip sharpened our understanding of Chinese culture, its people, as well as its strong cohesive society, politics, and economy.