Neither one of us ever imagined that our travel plans this summer would include a trip to China. The trip was a part of one of the classes in the Ed.D. In organizational leadership, and it had many valuable applications for work and life. In fact, it provided a way of building healthy relationships, around the world and at home.
Our travel agenda brought us to three different Chinese cities: Beijing, Xi’an, and shanghai. the class was taught by Dr. June Schmieder-Ramirez, who enjoys using an experiential approach to teaching and learning. We were provided with a rare opportunity to customize the learning to those aspects of the trip that were most relevant to our own learning goals. Personally, we were most interested in the cultural aspects of china and how that country’s unique environment is contributing to such incredible economic growth.
We arrived first in Beijing and had the opportunity to climb the Great Wall. It was constructed over several centuries and designed to keep the Mongols from attacking china. At 4,000 miles long, it is the world’s longest man-made structure. Since the steps are uneven and worn down it offers hikers and adventurers the challenge of reaching the top, a physical feat that only two in our group decided to pursue. The rest of us made it to the first or second watchtower and were rewarded with beautiful views of the surrounding area and very sore legs.
Our visit to Beijing also brought us to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Amid the modern-day hustle of downtown Beijing, we learned how the emperors ruled china for thousands of years. The Forbidden city is an icon of that past, and Tiananmen square is itself a forceful landmark of the current political uncertainty in china.
The next city we visited was Xi’an. The highlight of this portion of the trip was an adventure to visit the terra cotta Warriors. these 8,000 lifelike terra cotta soldiers were built to protect Emperor Qinshi Huang in his afterlife. Each of the soldiers’ faces is different and the detail that went into the creation of this monument is incredible. Amazingly, some soldiers still bear their original colors.
Shanghai is the most modern of the three cities we visited. Both of us were looking forward to this portion of the trip, as we were able to visit with business leaders. We began the morning at Dale Carnegie Training of Shanghai. Jackson Chang, the president of the Shanghai office, taught us about their business and some of the differences between operating this training company in china instead of the United States.
Dale Carnegie trainers have 30 principles that they teach in their flagship course. on the wall, a sign written in English described each of these principles, and a Pepperdine student asked which of the principles was hardest for the Chinese to embrace. Jackson indicated that principle number two, “Give honest and sincere appreciation,” presented a challenge for many of the Chinese. He explained that the Chinese are not accustomed to flattery or receiving compliments. It can be embarrassing for them and cause them to be suspicious as to the other person’s motives.
The last part of this day involved a wonderful dinner cruise with Michael Kuan, president of a Chinese venture capital firm. The food was delicious and the conversation with Michael was enlightening. His incredible rags-to-riches story is quite inspirational, and he encourages people to dream beyond what they think is possible. It was an honor to be there on the night he was informed that he would be receiving an honorary degree from Pepperdine. It was a great way to begin to wind down our trip and think about how we would apply what we learned.
Even though there are many contradictions in china today between the political system and the growing economy, the Chinese people seem optimistic about their future. In that way, they are much more similar to us than they are different, and we were honored to begin to build relationships that will be of value to us in continuing to understand and appreciate China’s role in the new world economy.