China Interim 2011

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Leonard Van Drunen updated "Jan 25 - Back home." 3 years ago, 1/26/2011
Leonard Van Drunen added the entry "Jan 25 - Back home." 3 years ago, 1/26/2011
Leonard Van Drunen updated "Jan 24 - Last full day in China." 3 years ago, 1/24/2011
Leonard Van Drunen updated "Jan 24 - Last full day in China." 3 years ago, 1/24/2011
Leonard Van Drunen added the entry "Jan 24 - Last full day in China." 3 years ago, 1/24/2011

After a final half day in Shanghai we departed our hotel at 2:00 p.m. for the airport.  We took the MagLev to the airport, as part of our final learning opportunity in China.  On the platform, Jake gave a little lecture about how magnetic levitation trains work.


This MagLev was built a few years ago as a demonstration line.  It is short, just between Shanghai and the airport… perhaps 20 miles.  It reached 430 kilometers per hour on our trip, which is about 267 miles per hour.  The MagLev goes beside a highway, and needless to say we were passing up the traffic like it was standing still… actually more like it was moving backwards.  267 mph on land is very fast.


Michael and Jeff taking pictures as it approached 430 kph.


Moon, Ike, Steph, Jeff and Michael relaxing in the new and spacious Shanghai Pudong International airport.


A game of hearts.


Mrs Van Drunen, Steph and Prof Si enjoying some airport dumplings.


Our airship.   The Pudong airport is new and built out by the sea.  You can see a stream of ships going by as you wait for your flight.  If you look close, you can see some on the horizon in the below pic.


Thankfully we had an uneventful 13 hour flight to Chicago.  Here we are waiting in Chicago.  This group tends to hang together and have fun. 


Finally, back in Grand Rapids being greeted by family and friends.


Lucas and fiancé


Scott and fiancé


Michael (with eyes wide open) and fiancé


Well, that wraps up the three weeks in China.   I hope each of the 22 students learned a lot about China, made some new friends, had a lot of fun and is now ready to teach others about China.  Of course, we just scratched the surface, and we focused mostly on business and engineering, but I trust it was three weeks well spent for each student.


I also hope each reader of this blog has enjoyed it and has also learned a little bit about China.  If you want to learn more, I encourage you to spend an hour with one of the students asking questions about what they learned.   Thanks for being part of this learning.


Prof Leonard Van Drunen




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Today was out last full day in China.  We began by taking the train from Hangzhou to Shanghai and then checked back into our same hotel in Shanghai on East Nanjing Road.  Seemed a bit like coming back to a home.   There was a flurry of last minute shopping in the afternoon, and then we had our final group dinner and discussion.


Jake, Chris and Tim reading and writing in the Hangzhou train station.


Zach, Tony, Steph, Ike, Penny and Logan chatting in the Hangzhou train station.


Our train, the 10:00 G train nonstop for Shanghai Hongqaio station.  The G trains are the newest and fastest trains.


The front of a G train.


Top speed was 350 km/hr, which is about 217 mile per hour.   We traveled from Hangzhou to Shanghai in only 45 minutes, and it is about a 3 hour drive assuming good traffic. 


Relaxing at 350 km/hr.   The train and train line are brand new, and very smooth. 


At our final group dinner everybody was pretty happy and relaxed.  We talked about how the students can help their friends and family learn about China when they return tomorrow.  So if you see one of these students be ready to ask a lot of questions and try to learn something from them.  They are ready!!


Table 1- Lukas, Zach, Ike, Penny, Steph, Tim and Mrs Van Drunen


Table 2 – Staci, Amanda, Lucas, Jeff, Jon, Jake, John, Chris and Prof Si.


Table 3 – Noelle, Michael, Logan, Jonathan, Tony, Sarah, Moon, and Jeff


Five new suits custom tailored in Shanghai - Lukas, Amanda, Lucas, Ike and Steph


Staci with her new blue wool coat


Mrs Van Drunen, Sarah and Staci with their new coats… Staci with her new red coat.


Noelle with new wool dress

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We worshiped at Hangzhou International Christian Fellowship (HICF) this morning, which meets in the building of Golou Church, which is a large registered church for Chinese citizens.   HICF has services in English and is for foreigners.   We met people from all over the world… the preacher was from New Zealand, his wife from Sweden, others from Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Burundi, and a number from USA, including an engineer from the Detroit area who knows some Calvin students.   I was encouraged to once again experience the fellowship of Christians from all corners of the world.


Waiting for the city bus to take us to church.


A very small city bus came by and we all piled on, and had a bit of fun as Amanda, Steph and Jake are showing here.


The group in front of the church building.  It is a large new building.  The international fellowship is pretty small (perhaps 100 people at most) and meets in the chapel of this building.  The main sanctuary is quite large, holding I guess about 500 persons. When we arrive the Chinese service was still going and the sanctuary was full and the chapel was almost full of persons participating via the video on a large screen.


In the chapel before the service… we are sitting up on the left there.


Tony found his store in the church neighborhood.


In the evening we had a group dinner for nourishment, fellowship and reflection.


Table 1 ready to eat.


Table 2 also ready to eat.






Prof Si helped us think about and understand the lens of “being” cultures/persons and “doing” cultures/persons.   Mary and Martha are a Biblical example of these two types of persons.  We tried to figure out how to best understand, live with, work with and be friends with people that are different from us in this respect.  Here she is leading the discussion.


We had two more birthdays to celebrate tonight!!


Staci turned 21


Jeff turned 22





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A relaxing Saturday of self directed learning in Hangzhou.  Hangzhou is an ancient city and is the capital of Zhejiang province.  It has a long history of prosperity and beauty.    Today things look pretty good in Hangzhou, at least on the surface.  The urban area has about 4 million persons, about the size of Phoenix or Berlin.  Many of these persons are quite well off, materially speaking.  Nice buildings, nice shops, nice streets, nice clothes and nice cars.   Big black Audi sedans seem to be the car of choice, but one also sees a lot of BMWs, Mercedes, etc.   I saw dealerships for Rolls Royce, Maserati, Lamborghini, Porsche and Ferrari.


Some student rented bikes and rode around West Lake, which is in the middle of Hangzhou and which our hotel is close to.  West Lake is perhaps the most famous and picturesque lake in China, with a long and illustrious history.  Marco Polo visited Hangzhou, when was already a large city, and is reputed to have written that is was the finest city in the world.


Good food is plentiful in Hangzhou, with great Chinese restaurants of course, but also Japanese, Korean, America, Italian, etc.   I witnessed Staci and Noelle eating pizza at a Papa Johns, if you can believe it!  Moon took Sarah and Amanda to a Korean restaurant.


Some of us visited the National Tea Museum.  As you may know, tea is big in China, having originated here in ancient times.  Hangzhou is one of the old tea areas and is home to this museum.


Cha (Chinese for tea)


The museum features the history of tea, the growing and making of tea, the health benefits of tea and the social customs of tea.  This display showed how tea can pretty much fix any bodily issue you have.


Mrs Van Drunen, Amanda, Sarah, Jon and Steph getting a tea demonstration explaining the main types of Chinese tea and how to brew them, along with a sample of each.  It hit the spot.


The grounds of the museum were lovely with all the fresh snow.


Logan playing with the touch screen at the visitor comment center.   He likes to explore things.


Next we visited the Six Harmonies Pagoda, built by Buddhist monks originally around 970 A.D.  It is about 200 feet high, but stands up on a bluff beside the river and gives nice views from the top.


Tim, Chris, Jake, Jon, Amanda, Mrs Van Drunen, Prof Si, Logan and Sarah in front of the pagoda.


Beautiful view from the top.


Group pic on the top layer.


The snow was pretty when the sun came out.  It was melting the snow off the trees and it was falling on us.



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We spent the day in and around Hangzhou, visiting two businesses that make things from fabrics.   Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province, which is one of the historic silk centers of China and still today is a center for the fabric industry in China.   The two businesses we visited make things from synthetic fabrics, not silk.


In the morning we visited Hangzhou Shengtai, makers of hunting tents, ice fishing tents and children’s play tents.  You might think it sounds pretty easy to make an ice fishing tent, but it has a lot of technical details that need to be right for it to work properly and last for a while.   Their tents  are mostly exported to the US and Europe and appear in famous outdoor stores you have heard of.


We started our visit in the local town hall of Daicun (a town about an hour south east of the city of Hangzhou) by being greeted by two town officials.  They then briefed us on why we should locate our business in the town of Daicun. 


The town hall is shown below.  It is very unusually cold and snowy these days.  We saw many accidents on the road and are again thankful for our safety.    We are also thankful for a warm hotel room.


The local head of the communist party, and thus a senior person in the local government, briefing us, with Prof Si translating, with Prof Van Drunen, Amanda, Zach, Tony and others listening.


Another town official telling us about the quality of education and thus workforce in Daicun, with the President and General Manager (two separate men) from Hangzhou Shengtai on the right.


Group photo in front of the company, with our host joining us on the front row.  We could not take photos in their factory, but what we saw was people cutting and sewing tents and packaging and shipping them.  We also visited their R&D and design area and for fun all 25 of us stood inside one of their ice fishing tents.  It was a bit crowded.  They make some pretty cool hunting and fishing tents. 


Next we drove to Ningbo, a neighboring city about 100km to the east of Hangzhou, close to the sea.  We participated in a big traffic jam due to an overturned truck hauling oranges.


An orange road


Finally we arrive at our second company, Ningbo PanAm, famous makers of safety vests.   Safety vests are required for many jobs around the world, and in addition we learned that every new car sold in Europe must have a safety vest as part of it’s emergency kit.   Anyway, if you start playing with the numbers, you can see that a lot of safety vests need to be made each year for the global market.  This company is focused on that market, mostly for export but increasingly for the Chinese market.


Our host, the company owner and president, explaining his product and business to us.


Demonstrating the different types of reflective tapes they use.


Tim asking a question of one of our hosts, while we were in the factory.


They make a whole lot of safety vests here.


Chris taking it all in.


One of the employees was working particularly fast.  They are paid on piece rate basis.  He agreed to take a 30 second break and have his picture taken with us, and with the company owner, our host.


Our host with Steph and Prof Si.


Group pic in their very nice large conference room.


Well, that finishes the official meeting part of the interim.  We have had many very good meetings with businesses, governments and educators... all with excellent student participation.  Now we have a few days for self directed learning, group reflection, journaling and reflective essay writing.  Oh yes, and final sightseeing and shopping.

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We had a nice warm beds and a sleep-in today.  No company visits, no TV crew, no group dinners.  Just a day to learn and reflect.  We visited the Nanjing city wall and the Nanjing Massacre Memorial, then caught a train for Hangzhou, our last city.


Here are a group of us are up on the city wall.  Of course the cold and snow were unexpected, but we made the best of it.  Actually it was kind of pretty.  It has not snowed in Nanjing for three years, so it was special and the wall looked nice with snow on it.


A couple of workers agreed to pose with us up on the wall.


It is a massive wall, about 40 feet high and 30 feet wide.  It was built at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty during the 1300’s.  It is mostly still standing and circles the historic city of Nanjing which is quite a large area.  Perhaps 15 miles around (my guess).  Mike and Scott and a view down the wall.


Staci, stone, snow and smile


A bit of a snowball  battle developed and then started to escalate in sort of an arms race and quest for superiority.


Zach, with the biggest armaments, which he ending up using peacefully.  Good job Zach.  He noted that he lives in Canada.


We visited the city wall at ZhongHuaMen, which is the main city gate and consists of a series of four gates.  Here is a view of the gate from atop the wall looking into the city.


Mrs Van Drunen on the wall with old houses in background.


Prof Si on the wall that her ancestral country men built.  Note how wide it is.


As we descended the wall, another last minute skirmish broke out to settle old accounts.  How do you call something done and over and forgiven?


On that note, we visited the Nanjing Massacre Memorial whose goal it is to call the Japanese atrocities at Nanjing during WW2 forgiven but not forgotten.  About 300,000 civilians and surrendered soldiers were massacred by the Japanese in Nanjing when they captured it in 1937. It was then the capital of China and was a hard fought victory.  In a very sad chapter of human history, the Japanese went crazy and killed many people when they finally captured the city.

The memorial traces all this.  It is very sobering.  We spent about two hours walking through and reading the exhibits.  No photos were allowed inside.


A lot of heads were chopped off.  This big statue recalls that.


A remembering spot in the museum


We then headed for the train station and as usual in China were greeted by big crowds and standing room only.  We all got some food and drink and then waited a bit.  Finally we boarded our train for Hangzhou, about a 3 hour ride. 


John with KCF in hand


 All cozy and comfy and ready to roll


Sarah and Moon talking to Penny and Steph.


We arrived in Hangzhou pretty much healthy and happy.  This is one great traveling group of young learners !!


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Last night we took a bus to Nanjing.  The surprising snow turned our four hour bus ride into an 8 hour bus ride, allowing us to arrive a little after midnight.  We saw a lot of accidents on the way, so we felt blessed to arrive safely at our hotel in Nanjing.


This morning we visited ZTE, a major manufacturer of telephone equipment and services.  Their customers are all the telephone companies around the world like Verizon, Sprint, Vodaphone, France Telecom, etc.  They make, install and service the telecommunications infrastructure around the world, along with some other companies of course like Cisco, Alcetal and Lucent.


Here our host explains ZTE’s technology and business, with Joh, Amanda, Zach, Moon, Jake and Prof Si.  They have 61,000 employees around the world, with 35% of them being in research and development.  They hire a lot of engineers every year.   They have engineerings doing research, manufacturing, sales, service and most managars are also engineers.  They hire quite a few foreign engineers since their customers are all over the world.  For example, one of our hosts was a service engineer and has spent three months in Madagascar working with some ZTE cell phone infrastructure equipment and customers.


A slide on ZTE’s corporate social responsibility.  This theme is coming up more and more each time I visit China.


A slide showing that ZTE does everything in the cell phone industry, soup to nuts.  If you want to start a cell phone service provider company to compete with AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, you can call ZTE for all your technology  and customer service needs.


Group picture in ZTE’s lobby with our hosts joining us in the front room.


In the afternoon we met with faculty and students at Nanjing University of Science and Technology.


First some lunch, with one of our hosts in the green coat.


In the classroom, Zach engaging with one of the engineering students, who was also a leader in the communist party youth league on campus.  He said the goal of his organization was to help students be more successful students, despite there being high student/faculty ratios.


Our host on the left giving us a presentation, with Prof Si at her side.  She is in charge of foreign students coming to the university to study.  They get a lot ot students from Vietnam and Saudi Arabia coming to learn Chinese and then engineering.  Chinese nationals pay about $1000 per year for tuition.  Foreigners pay about three or four times that, but still pretty cheap.


Looking at a robot in one of their labs.  As you can imagine, China is spending a lot of  money on technology education so they can continue to be a leader in manufacturing as some of the lower tech manufacturing moves to countries with lower wages like Vietnam and India, forcing China to focus on higher value added products.


Ike, Lucas and Lukas watching a wire saw cut some steel into an intricate pattern.


One of our hosts with Prof Si by an expensive looking milling machine to make things out of steel.


Group picture


After warming up at our hotel (it is cold spell in Nanjing) we had a group dinner at a very nice Chinese restaurant.

We had the special treat to be joined for dinner by Prof Si’s father, sister-in-law and brother.






Only one left… it must have been good! 


Fruit for dessert.


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Today we are visiting two companies in Shanghai and then took our bus to Nanjing.   Nanjing translated literally means South Capital (Beijing means North Capital.   Historically Nanjing has been an important city in China, being the first capital of the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century and also being the capital for a short while during WW2.  But first, the two companies…


We visit Bristol-Myers Squibb (B-MS) in the morning.  A nice sign by the front door welcomed us.


We met with the general manager for China, a very nice Australian.  He explains B-MS strategy for China.  They are very focused in the Chinese healthcare market, since the usage of medicines is still quite low in China but as the incomes have increased in China the market for higher end medicines in China has grown rapidly, and this is expected to continue for quite a while.  So B-MS makes medicine in China mostly for the Chinese market, not for export.


Here we are meeting out host in their conference room.


Then we toured the final packaging area of their production facilty.  I forgot to write down the numbers, but they make a lot of pills here every year.   A big seller for them in China is Baraclude, for hepatitis.   The also sell a diabetes drug here (not insulin).  They produce both prescription drugs and over the counter drugs at this factory, but most of their revenue comes from the prescription drugs.


We split into two groups for the plant tour.  Here half of us are with our gear so that we do not get any dirt or foreign particles in the packaged drugs.  The plant manager is standing on theleft.


After the tour they treated us to lunch in their employee cafeteria.  As usual, the food was very tasty.

Moon, Amanda, Michael (with his new Chinese haircut) and Sarah enjoying the food.


Noelle, Staci, Jonathan and Tony.


John, Tim, Zach and Lucas (showing us how to eat rice with chop sticks). 


Jeff, Chris, Scott, Ike and Jon.


The sign out front.  This official name reflects the fact that it is a joint venture between a Chinese state owned enterprise and Squibb, the company that merged with Bristol-Myers to form B-MS a few years ago.  You can see some snow in the photo… it started to snow while we were at B-MS.  Snow is unusual in Shanghai, but we got it as a special bonus. !!


In the afternoon we visited Kotoni, a manafuctuer of higher end leather shoes.  At this point, most of their shoes are for export to developed countries under the brand of famous western brands such as Florsheim, Johnston and Murphy, Hush Puppy, Allen Edmonds, Bruno Maglia, etc.  However, they are developing their own brand for sale in China. 


We toured the factory and were allowed to take photos.  I guess there are not big secrets in shoe making.  It is old technology, perhaps one of the oldest, and involves a lot of craft and people.  These shoes are pretty much made by hand, with some basic machines of course, which are operated by hand.


Laying out where to cut the leather


Cutting the leather


Penny our host and our Penny


A lot of people sewing leather.


Up close


Punching holes one at a time for stitching


Cutting some small pieces


A rack of partially finished uppers


Tony, John and Steph taking it all in.






Last bins


The shoes they were making on the line we toured.  They sell for about $300 in the USA.  I don’t own any.


If you have good shoes you won’t notice you feet.


One of our hosts, a shoe master from Italy, helping us learn about the footwear industry and how new models are developed and brought to market.  Moon and Jonathan at the left with our hosts on the right.

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