This past summer, I traveled to Shanghai, China, to work for a supply chain management company called Li and Fung Limited. For eight weeks, I worked in their office as an intern. I knew that interning in China would be completely different than interning in the United States, and I was looking forward to learning about Li Fung’s approach to business.
Since I haven’t thoroughly studied Asian economics or trade issues, getting to see Chinese business in practice was very informative. Li Fung is a large company, which gave me the opportunity to see a wide range of interactions in various settings. One other thing that I was able to learn were the various business subtleties I could not have learned from a textbook. For example, my boss asked me to look over a contract that they were negotiating with a buyer. I thought that the other party was trying to take advantage of the company, and so I pointed out the offending sections to my boss. He agreed that the requests were egregious, but that it would be unprofessional to immediately shoot down the requests. Something that I hadn’t realized was that I was approaching the contract from an American business view, which is more dominant and aggressive. My boss explained to me that a tough negotiation standpoint would not be conducive to the company’s end goal, which was guanxi, or to build a long term relationship with the client. To honor their wishes, he would take the time to consider all of their requests seriously so as to build trust and goodwill. Seeing this philosophy in practice helped me rethink my own approach to business.
In addition to the business side of my time in China, on the weekends, my fellow interns and I got to explore both Shanghai and the surrounding area. As many of them were Chinese, they were able to teach me all about the various sites we visited. One weekend we went to Suzhou and saw the Classical Gardens and Tiger Hill, while another weekend we went to Beijing and saw famous sites like the Summer Palace, Great Wall of China, and Tiananman Square. We ate traditional Shanghainese food like Drunken Chicken and Xiaolongbao, and I learned about the differences in cuisine between different provinces in China. They also taught me basic Chinese phrases. My favorite one is xiaoxin, which means “be careful” but directly translates as “little heart”.
Overall, my time in Shanghai was truly unique. My experiences as an employee in China have convinced me that I want to pursue international business as a career, while my experiences as a tourist helped me immerse myself in Chinese culture. I am extremely grateful to the ILR International Travel Grant for helping to make my trip possible.