Interim 2013: China Business & Engineering

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Leonard Van Drunen updated "January 23, 2013." 1 year ago, 1/23/2013
Leonard Van Drunen added the entry "January 23, 2013." 1 year ago, 1/23/2013
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Leonard Van Drunen updated "January 22, 2013." 1 year ago, 1/22/2013
Leonard Van Drunen updated "January 22, 2013." 1 year ago, 1/22/2013

Back in the USA! Today we woke up in Shanghai and are ready for bed in the USA about 22 hours later. It was a great three weeks of fun learning. Make sure you ask one of the students what they learned and give them a few minutes to answer. Do not accept a short one or two sentence answer!


We rode the MagLev out to the Shanghai Pudong Airport


Melanie with Jesse and his ice cream in the airport


Titus, Sydney and Lauren waking up for the second time on Jan 23.


A very nice welcome in the Grand Rapids airport !


Prof Si and her son, Jenson.


Benham with somebody pleased to see him.


Amanda with husband and flowers


Thanks for following our blog.  Find someway to visit China in the near future and see for yourself !




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Today was our last full day in China. We visited our final company, transited from Hangzhou area to Shanghai and had our final group dinner. We visited a company named JAM Manufacturing; a maker of things cut, bent and welded from steel, with a focus on wheel chairs, choir risers and church and banquet chairs. Almost all their products are for export to USA and Europe, but with an increased focus on the Chinese market. At our dinner discussion we talked about what most surprised us about China and about how people from the US and China could work together in the future to make the world a better place. Some surprises were the family style restaurant eating, the number of people, the small number of non-Chinese people, the spitting, and the profound difference between the English and Chinese languages. Some ways discussed to work together were in education (exchange programs), politics and leadership (the US setting an example, perhaps better, of how to organize an industrial and post-industrial society) and immigration (perhaps more open immigration between the two countries). After a good discussion we celebrated the three students for whom this is the last course. As of tomorrow evening Amanda, Benham and Grant will be Calvin graduates!!! Then we celebrated Lauren’s birthday which will be tomorrow, the day we fly. She gets an extra long 36 hour birthday with two sunrises… does that mean she has two birthdays this year?


Chris with his breakfast of noodles, rice and plum juice.


Our welcome at JAM Manufacturing. Prof Van Drunen with our hosts Kathy and David.


Our hosts graciously answer all of our questions


Nate showing off his wheelchair skills


Bill in their very low end wheel chair, which their customer (a USA and UK charitable organization) donates to needy persons in poorer countries.


Nick, Nate and Leah with some of their banquet and church seating.


Our hosts explaining something to Nate, Prof Van Drunen and Ross.


Doug and Wes with comfortable backsides, ready for a good sermon.


Our hosts served us lunch in their dining hall. ZiQi, Nate, Mrs Van Drunen and Prof Si, joined by Chuck, a mechanical engineer from one of JAM’s USA customers who happened to be there today to work on desiging a new product.


We arrived back in Shanghai at about 3:00 and checked into our hotel. Some students went directly to the South Bund Soft Spinning Goods Market to pick up the clothes that they had ordered to be made custom for them. At dinner we had an informal fashion show.


Brothers Luke and Titus showing of their new suits


Nick, Maame, Luke, Kendra, Titus, Karl, Amanda and Nick with their new clothes.


A table of happy learners.



Prof Si leading our dinner discussion


ZiQi making a point


Jon giving his views on diverging political systems


Lauren blowing out her birthday candle. The cake was delicious and quickly finished off.


Titus singing an improv ballad for the birthday girl.


Stay tuned for the last blog entry tomorrow when we arrive back in the USA.


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Today the students met with Ningbo Pan-Am (safety apparel), town leaders in Daicun, and Hangzhou Shengtai (tent making).

At Ningbo Pan-Am, students learned about the different types of safety apparel along with company background and history. Most of the products Ningbo Pan-Am produces are exported to foreign countries. In 2011, 900,000 vests were produced with hopes of reaching 20 million in the next two years thanks to a joint initiative with the Chinese government.

Next students conversed with Daicun town leaders where they learned general facts about the town along with goals for the future. Daicun is a small town of about 38,000 but has a GDP of about $2 billion due to some key industries. They hope to become a major tourist destination in the future because of some forests. How they can accomplish this is anyone’s guess.

The last item on today’s agenda was visiting Hangzhou Shengtai, a recreational tent making company. They produce play, camping, ice fishing, hunting, etc. tents. Even though 99% of the raw materials are from China to produce these tents, 98% of the final goods are exported to other countries. After a company introduction and briefing, students went on a factory tour.   However, because of the Chinese New Year, the factory was shut down and students were not able to see actual tents being manufactured.

Once meetings were done, students had free time since it is the last night in Hangzhou before heading back to Shanghai on Tuesday.



Lucas demonstrating a police safety vest.


Professor VanDrunen setting an example of safety first.


Students learning about Ningbo Pan-Am. (safety vests)


Observing employees making safety vests.


Professor Si interacting with the leaders in the town of Daicun.


Students participating in question and answer time with the Daicun leaders.


Camping chairs that Hangzhou Shengtai (tent manufacturing company) produces.


Nathan, Titus,and Mitch modeling a hunting tent.


Titus and Lauren keeping warm in an ice-fishing thermal tent.


Where the the sewing and producing of tents takes place.


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Today is the Third Sunday in China. We will visit a church in Hangzhou: Hangzhou International Christian Fellowship (HICF), which is in Goulou church.This is also the third church we are going to visit in China.

Bus to Church



Worship team of the church



This church is really close to two famous streets of Hangzhou: Hefang Jie and Nansongyu Jie. There are a lot of shops and vendors with different traditional chinese stuff. After church, we were split into different groups walked around this street. Watch different interesting things and tried different delicious food. This afternoon is another self-directing study time, students went to different sites again. I walked around the west lake and found some interesting things about Hangzhou, maybe you know who this guy is.

Here is the explaination of the statue


Tonight, we had another group dinner and Prof. Van Drunen led a discussion about differences in worldviews.



After more than two weeks in China, we still made a conclusion that we can not use one or two sentences to describe China.



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We arrived at Hangzhou," the most beautiful city" in China last night. It is the capital and the largest city of Zhejiang province. It was one of the most prosperous city in the 10th century of China. It is well known for its West Lake and a lot of other historical sites such as a few pagodas (Six-harmonies/liuhe pagoda, Leifeng pagoda), temples, and its Dragon Well tea. China Tea Museum is about 10 kilometers from West Lake surrounded by tea farms.

Today is such a nice sunny day. The weather report said the temperature is between 16 to 4 degree C. No wonder I felt so warm when I walked around West Lake in the early afternoon. It is a self-directed study day, students can choose to go to their favorite sites.

A group of students went to Six-harmonies/Liuhe Pagoda with Prof. Van Drunen and his wife, a group of students went to an ancient street, a group of students biked around West lake, and of course a group of students went to the Tea Museum. 

Chinese started to drink tea since 3000 years ago. Japanese and Korean learned it since Tang Dynasty which was from 618 to 907 AD. Depends on the color, fermentation processing, tea are separated into a few different varities, including white, yellow, green, Oolong, black, Pu'er, and some processed with flower teas. Depends on the type of tea, the temperature of water and the steep time are varies. Here is a table from Free Wiki. Maybe it can give you some sense to prepare your tea in the future.


TypeWater temp.Steep timeInfusions
White tea65 to 70 °C (149 to 158 °F)1–2 minutes3
Yellow tea70 to 75 °C (158 to 167 °F)1–2 minutes3
Green tea75 to 80 °C (167 to 176 °F)1–2 minutes4-6
Oolong tea80 to 85 °C (176 to 185 °F)2–3 minutes4-6
Black tea99 °C (210 °F)2–3 minutes2-3
Pu'er tea95 to 100 °C (203 to 212 °F)LimitlessSeveral
Tisanes99 °C (210 °F)3–6 minutesVaried


Poem about tea from Tang Dynasty


Tea Farm


On Hefang Ancient Street, Melanie is taking a picture for her sister's dolphin.


Today is Chinese Lunar Calendar Dec. 8th, it means Chinese New Year is only three weeks from today, Stuff for New Year is everywhere.


Biking around West Lake


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Our group spent the morning and early afternoon exploring the mausoleum and other monuments that honor Sun Yat-sen, the "father" of modern China.  He led a revolution in 1911 that ushered in the Republic of China, which effectively ended thousands of years of feudal-based dynastic rule.  Sun has an ambiguous legacy.  He was clearly a nationalist, but in the end he wasn't able to prevent factional conflict in China.  This led to civil war after his death, resulting in the familiar division between the People's Republic in mainland China and Taiwan (the latter still described as a province by the PRC).  Today, leaders in both the PRC and Taiwan claim Sun as a key figure in their histories, which results in competing understandings of what he meant by ideas such as nationalism, democracy, and the importance of the people's "livelihood."

After the mausolem, we took the train from Nanjing to Hangzhou, which is the last location for the interim.  My daughter and I will be leaving tomorrow, a few days earlier than the rest of the group.  We learned a great deal.  One of the ways I was challenged had to do with the fact that most of the businesses we visited - from the largest (GM Shanghai, Bristol Meyers Squib) to the smallest - are in China to open up opportunities in the enormous Chinese market.  I say "challenged" because I often assume, along with many other North Americans, that US businesses are here largely to take advantage of cheap labor and then turn around to sell those Chinese-made goods back in the US, which results in loss of jobs in the US.  That certainly happens, but if our site visits are any indication, I wonder to what extent there's been shift from an emphasis on Chinese exports to Chinese domestic consumption.  One of Olivia's biggest take-aways was more interpersonal: She was impressed at how hospitable Chinese people tend to be, which led her to reflect on how she interacts with people in our own culture.



 Some of the group in front of the mausoleum gate.



A statue of Sun Yat-sen above his grave.


Taking a break from walking the steps to the mausoleum.


Not sure how this is possible!


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We are in Nanjing today. The name Nanjing literally means “south capital” since this was the south capital of China in ancient times and also the first capital of the Ming Dynasty before the second Ming emperor moved the capital north to Beijing and built the forbidden city there in about 1400 AD. It was also the capital of the republic of China during the early 1900’s. So Nanjing is an important historic city in China, and today has about 7 million people. It is also home to several good universities, one of which we visited. We also visited ZTE, a large global company focused on telecommunications and IT infrastructure. In the evening we had a group dinner during which students discussed what they had learned in the first two weeks of the course.

We started with a visit to ZTE, which is the fifth largest telecommunications equipment company in the world, according to Wikipedia. Their customers are telephone service providers (think Verizon or Sprint), and they serve these types of customers all over the world, but not in the US. We visited their large R&D center in Nanjing. The focus of our visit was to learn about how ZTE’s is developing its cloud computing technology. They are invested big money in this as they think it will allow enterprises to save a lot of money on computing technology in the coming years. For starters ZTE has developed cloud computing for the 70,000 ZTE employees to use. Cloud computing generated a lot of questions from the students.

Here we are being welcomed in one of their lobbies.


Prof Si and our hosts explaining ZTE’s cloud computing technology and business.  The front screen is 12 LCD flat screens hooked together.  Pretty cool.


We visited one of their R&D computing centers. Here is Bill standing beside one of their fully encased server pods, which are climate controlled pods the size of a small room stacked with servers and cables.


Jon with switches.


After lunch we visited Nanjing University, one of the top ten universities in China. They have 30,000 students and offer a wide variety of majors. About half the students are undergraduate and half graduate students. We meet with an environmental engineering professor and a group of engineering students.

Prof den Dulk introducing Calvin College to our hosts. Calvin students on the right, Nanjing University students on the left.


Luke asking a question during a long and interesting Q&A period. Calvin students and NU students had many questions, all about college and college life.


Nick and Leah talking with two of our host students. Most of the students we met spoke pretty good English.


Kendra (left) and Leah (right) with three Nanjing University students.


On the way back to the hotel some of us stopped at the Zhonghuamen, which is the main gate in the old city wall, built prior to 1400 AD.

Olivia, Prof den Dulk and Mrs Van Drunen in the gate. The gate is actually five sequential gates, for added security.


View of the wall from the top of the gate house. It is a huge wall stretching far around most of the old city of Nanjing.


At the group dinner Melanie and Eric explained what they learned when they visited Honeywell UOP a few days ago. The company makes special pellets used for oil processing.


Chris and Nick about to eat hot peppers, with Amanda watching.


Doug emulating a plastic statue of a bowing lady in our restaurant lobby. What does it mean?


After dinner we walked to the ancient Confucius temple area, Fuzi Miao, in the center of Nanjing along the Qinhuai river.

Enjoying the views and walk.


Lucas with a calligrapher some thought looked like John Calvin !



Titus with a women.


It was a full day of engagement in Nanjing. This group of 32 students really likes to explore, have fun and learn.


At dinner many students stood up and told their peers something they had learned so far in China, that is something that challenged their assumptions going into this China learning experience.  If you know one of the  students, ask them what they learned in China the next time you see them.


Tomorrow we visit some historical sites in Nanjing and then catch a train to Hangzhou.







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Greetings from Nanjing!  Today, our group framed the knowledge we have been aquiring about the automobile industry in China by visiting GM Shanghai.

As a group, many questions were asked to management about the company's 50/50 joint partnership with the Chinese automobile maker SAIC and their progress in the electric vehicle realm. 

In relation to the joint partnership, it seems that GM is benefiting quite well from the monetary stake and government negotiations which SAIC provides the company.  In reality, GM sales in China exceed those in the United States, especially in brands such as Buick.  We found this quite fascinating!  It was also interesting to hear that GM is planning to pioneer a car sharing program in an eco city set up by the Chinese government by the year 2015.  They plan to use small, all-electric vehicles with the name EN-V 2.0.  This raised much discussion about the potential for these cars to be sold to a broader market.  We are left to wait on whether this works out for the better GM and the environment.

After our long visit at GM, the group headed straight to the train station to catch out 6:30pm train to Nanjing.  We are here now and many in our group out and about, discovering what adventures this city has to offer.  For today, January 16, that's all.  We'll touch base again tomorrow.

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