Report: UTokyo-Peking University Joint Summer Program 2015 Steven Urueta

Report: UTokyo-Peking University Joint Summer Program 2015 Steven Urueta

Time and Date
August 28(Fri.) to September 6(Sun.), 2015
Beijing, China

I felt strangely calm upon entering the soaring atrium of Beijing Capital Airport, even though I am usually nervous when faced with the unknown. Perhaps it was the air of indifference from the customs staff, or the fact that my immigration procedure consisted of wordlessly shuffling papers and making the slightest of nods to pass through. Perhaps it was the branding plastered everywhere - advertisements for everything from Cartier to KFC - that reassured me that this place might not be so unfamiliar after all. In fact, the entire building filled me with confidence, a desire to stroll out the front doors and just wander, seeing where the roads would go. But that was not to be: I was here for a purpose, bound by a schedule, and needed to find our group's meeting point.

The course overview stated that we were to explore the difficulties that Japanese companies encountered when entering China and how they attempted to overcome such challenges. Through activities guided by representatives of a selection of such companies, we had the fortune of being able to compare these experiences across industries. With Kewpie Beijing, we saw just how important quality control and standardized processes were to producing safe and delicious food. Through 7-11, we discovered Chinese consumers' preferences for localized foods as well as what sorts of employee management strategies were useful. At Asakura, the difficulties of expanding in the underdeveloped luxury salon market, as well as catering to different price tiers and Chinese tastes in makeup and hairdressing, became very apparent. At the Japanese Embassy, we were able to hear from people in the government and from industry cooperatives on how agreements and policies are forged. Beijing LOGRAS was the most personal of the presentations, letting us see through the eyes of an entrepreneur how the market for corporate websites grew.


Of course, just as important as these guided activities was the chance to make friends with and learn from the students at Peking University, known colloquially as Beida. I got along especially well with a student around my age who also studies international politics, and I enjoyed hearing his perspective on China's relationship with Japan. From spending time with him, I learned life as a Beida student was a little different from my preconceived perceptions. First, rather than just an austere series of academic buildings, the campus was varied and lively, peppered with small grocery stores and assorted shops. Second, it was surprising that undergraduate students slept four to a dormitory room and many graduate students slept two to a room, a state of affairs that might have been a cause of what I perceived as a certain frankness in relationships there. Most surprising of all was the willingness of many people to approach strangers. In fact, I probably had more people in Beijing come up to me and speak in that short period than I had during my entire time at Todai.

Finally came our exploration of Beijing and its surrounding area. We were fortunate to be able to visit the Great Wall as well as tour the beautiful Beidai campus as part of the program. We were also happy to have some free time for ourselves to visit trendy places like Houhai Lake and Wudaokou, especially as we could see what young people did for fun. The cuisine was also incredible, and of course worlds apart from the "Chinese" food I ate in the US. Even though I was maybe a bit too risky with trying out street food, I'm glad to have done so.

All in all, I am very grateful to the people at the IHS program, especially Professor Sonoda and Professor Uda, for making this trip possible. The same goes for the great hospitality from those at Beidai. Hopefully one day I will have the chance to learn from people in other countries as well.


report date : August 4, 2015