Post by Cristina Aria & Jared Wolf
As we sit on the train from Beijing to Shanghai, we reminisce on our first encounter as a group with China. Our first week of BRIC has been one filled with new experiences and tastes inclusive of scorpions and octopus. From climbing the great wall to meeting entrepreneurs, two of whom had graduated from Babson College, the group as a whole could not have asked for a better start to our adventures abroad. It is amazing to see how even halfway across the globe, in a city of 20 million people, the Babson network is still present.
Guanxi is the Chinese word for relationships, which we have gathered from our speakers, and it is an essential component of doing business in China. Although this is something that many Chinese people attribute to being a unique aspect to the Chinese business environment, this concept is similar to its English counterpart: network. For Allison Friedman, an American visual arts entrepreneur, Guanxi has made the difference from having a cancelled show in Beijing to enjoying a successful night at the theater. Entrepreneurs in China are faced with many obstacles, the language, need of connections, and understanding of the Chinese legal and bureaucratic system; however, as a developing economy which is enjoying rapid growth, with a GDP target yearly growth of 7%, it is filled with opportunity for those willing to enter the market. Dominic Johnson, the owner of Plastered 8, a T-shirt company, arrived in China 20 years ago and now owns various stores in Beijing, is member of a government board in charge of cultural events, and regularly hosts TV shows. His ability to identify the creative space as a business opportunity, and quickly adapt and make strategic connections have allowed him to make Beijing his home and “sandbox.” Due to the complexity and lack of clarity within the Chinese legal system, partners and allies are resources which enable business owners to navigate through the unknown. Similarly as we embark on our second week into the unknown territory of Shanghai we hope to continue to build our community and BRIC Guanxi to continue to have a successful semester abroad.