Executive MBA visit to China

15 June 2018


Arriving in Shanghai.

This being my first time coming to Shanghai my initial impression was that this place is huge. Just before landing we got a panoramic view through the airplane window and it is a really big city. Down on the ground entering the airport it is very clear that you are in China. It is big, organized, and staff are everywhere.

While taking a taxi into the city we experienced a lot of traffic and one of my travel companions, Richard, a young Canadian, really tired after a long flight (and hungry…) looks out of the taxi and says –“there are a lot of people here”… Yes, since there are about 25 million people in Shanghai that’s very true!

As a Swede and coming to China for the first time you automatically assume that you can cope using English…but no. Already during our first lunch we encounter the embarrassing feeling that YOU are the foreigner that do not speak the right language. But by pointing at other tables and hoping for the best we got three out of four courses right (the fourth being boiled chicken feet…).

To explore some of this vast city we used the metro and I can strongly recommend to go to the Huangpu riverside at night to have a look at the Pudong skyline. It is very impressive but naturally you will not be alone as you have to share it with all the other tourists there…  Something that I also noticed was the noise level which is actually quite low due to the fact that all scooters are electric. But you have to watch out as they come fast if you don’t pay attention!


Onwards to Hangzhou

In the morning, we decided to rent a bus from the hotel in Shanghai to go to Hangzhou. After going a couple of blocks we suddenly realized that we forgotten our participant from Borås, Mr. Iqbal! He had overslept due to jet lag and of course he got very stressed out when we woke him up. So what did we learn from this? That this is like going on a school trip but even more difficult because it is a school trip with 23 senior managers that all are used to decide and organize themselves but nobody really takes the lead.

After three and a half hours in the bus we finally arrive in Hangzhou. Along the way with heavy traffic all the time we were constantly passing by construction sites which made me think about the amount of concrete used – it has to be enormous. When we get to the hotel I notice something else and that is the system of supervising; while there are six employees at the check-in counter two of them seems just to be supervising the other four and everyone acts really stressed but with low efficiency.

Finally we gather the full Executive MBA class and Professor Schweizer begins the first reflection session as the start of the Executive MBA 2017-2019 China module.

The Executive 2017-2019 class during lecture at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou.


Hangzhou and Shanghai

In the morning, we take a short walk to the Zhejiang University campus to have our first lecture. Professor Zhang gives us a lecture about the culture of doing business in China, the start of an intense week, with every day starting early and ending late with Chinese dining.

During the week we listen to several Chinese professors presenting an interesting mix of topics at both Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and Antai College in Shanghai.

We also make company visits to Transfar, Topsun Group, Shanghai International Port and Volvo Construction Equipment. Some of them are of POE, Private Owned Enterprises, and GOE, Government Owned Enterprises and the border line between the two seems to me to be very thin sometimes.

In Shanghai we take part in an interesting roundtable discussion with four different stakeholders on the topic of doing business in China and the final part of the module concludes with lectures in Supply Chain Management with Professor Rickard Bergqvist flown in from the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg.

Sitting now in the air writing this, traveling back to Gothenburg, coming over me is the overwhelming feeling that China is an extremely interesting Country/Market/Area. No matter what you think, China’s development will in some way impact us all!

Company visit to Volvo Construction Equipment in Shanghai


My personal reflections/questions from the visit:


  1. How are Chinese companies managed?
  2. How are Swedish/European companies managed in China?
  3. What are the major differences in company culture?
  4. What are the risks of working/doing business in China?
  5. All the world wants a part of the growth in China but does China want to give away/share the growth? How would we act in if we were in their shoes?
  6. Can you trust or build a serious partnership in China?
  7. Is the “Swedish way” of doing business – a handshake and trusting the other part to fulfill its obligations – perhaps a naïve wish?


Best regards, from a tired but inspired,


Mattias Forslund,

Continental Tires

Executive MBA class 2017-2019