by Petya Andreeva ‘13
Traveling on the bus to Nanjing, I think through all the stereotypes that the last five days of our journey has reshaped. Many Western notions and perceptions of the Chinese social and economic landscape are changing with every step we take. Despite the common idea of lack of freedom, as I look through the infinite green scenery of the urban space outside the bus window and as I walk through the dynamic working atmosphere of the numerous factories that we visit, I realize that not as many walls surround what we say and not as many fears shape what we think.
Today, we visited Walsin Lihwa Company, a major player in the steel production industry in China. The company operates at as many as twenty sites along the Yangtze River. It produces three major types of products. The main production includes steel wires that suspend bridges all around China. The working atmosphere at the company includes an increasing emphasis on safety control, flexibility and innovation. The major exports go to Japan, South Korea and the United States. Visiting such a highly capital-intensive company was a real eye-opener as it revealed the fast changes in industrialization and the amazing development in machinery in Chinese factories.
In the afternoon, the class arrived in Nanjing where we visited a joint venture between Ford, Mazda, And Chang’An Motor Company. We were given excellent access to the production facilities and were able to observe closely every step of the production process of three different models of cars. The company’s main strategy for sustaining the high production output was an emphasis on high efficiency with as many as only two people working on one engine. Walking through the factory, I was looking at the workers and I saw passion written on their faces and diligence and dedication in their movements. The engineer who gave the talk and led us through the production facilities spoke with an incredible zeal about his work and was extremely detailed and willing to explain to us every single step of the process.
Being a East Asian Studies major at Colby, I have always had a favorite quote that summarizes how I have always felt about the way Chinese society works. In one of his famous speeches, President Kennedy mentioned the Chinese character for crisis, weiji, that consists of two other characters. The first one means “danger” and the second one means “opportunity.” Therefore, Kennedy advised the American audience present at his speech to always be aware of the opportunity in times in danger. After spending five days traveling on the roads of China, I feel his insight was quite accurate. The reason that the Chinese economy is expanding at such a rapid rate is that Chinese society overcomes crisis easily by foreseeing the opportunity even at the most critical situations. Being able to make those observations while travelling and gaining first-hand experience and getting a real sense of how Chinese people live is not just an ordinary January plan class. It is an opportunity of a lifetime.