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Back From China – Not a Moment Too Soon!

I arrived home from my 2 week stint in China last night. Our group traveled on Northwest Airlines and was aware when we departed on August 6th that there may be a strike by the mechanics union on August 20th. We were scheduled to return on August 19th and fortunately, everything worked out so we were home 5 hours before the mechanics walked out.
Over the next several weeks, I will be posting entries and pictures about my trip to China. It was part of a study abroad program at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business focusing on transition economies. This year was China, next year is Russia, and the year after South Africa. Then the program loops back around.
I have always been fascinated with the history and culture of Asia and China in particular. When this opportunity arose to study China as an emerging economy as part of my MBA curriculum, I jumped at it. There are many good stories in China and many emerging business opportunities as well. We made a total of 9 company visits in Beijing, Chongqing, Shaghai and Hong Kong. I have many pages of notes from these visits that I will assimilate and post. In between, we visited culturally significant places – the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Summer Palace, cruised the Yangtze, visited the Temple of the Jade Buddha and ascended Victoria’s Peak, among many other jaunts.
Back to today’s thought about being home. It’s interesting that the mechanics went on strike. In several of our meetings, I inquired about the presence and role of labor unions in China. In the cases where they existed, they were not active in the respect that unions in the United States are. They are there generally for two purposes – 1) To ensure that the regulations imposed by the state are being enacted, and 2) To maintain harmony between employees and management. Collective bargaining to the extent we see in the US does not yet take the same form in China. From talking to a few representatives, I got the same general response – employees realize that should they walk off the job, more people will suffer than just the company. Very true – and amazing. They don’t want their fellow employees in other positions to suffer, nor do they want the customers to suffer.
A few of us awaiting our flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta reflected on the Eastern Airlines pilot strike in the 80’s that put the company out of business. I don’t think Northwest will suffer a similar fate, but I wonder how much different things would be if they had a more Chinese attitude.

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