Until our visit with the Executive MBA class in April 2018, for me China was a country I previously only had heard of. Now, full of personal impressions, I feel that this visit has changed my perspective on so many things and the way I see the world and look at the future. Before the visit, I perceived China as a somewhat underdeveloped and backwards country and I believed that the political environment had led to a state where people were without freedom and happiness. However, from spending ten days in the country and getting the chance to see this place from the inside, I rather found people to be full of confidence, living in a highly digitalized society. Everyone seemed to be online all the time and not even bikes could be rented without an app and Alipay, the digital payment system.
I believe this everyday usage of technology together with the development of artificial intelligence, the focus on education and science combined with the vast number of people will be a major force pushing China’s growth in both the near and long term. I was stunned by how the government has facilitated the country’s economic progress and it feels as if this political system aligns all the people to support the development of the economy. There are of course downsides to this as China is a country lacking democracy and freedom for every individual. The severe pollution, brought on by the enormous industrial transformation during past decades, is another one.
China has a long history and the culture is strongly embedded in the minds of its people. Talking to people during this journey made me understand how these ancient values are visibly part of their everyday lives. First comes family, which is what matters the most, second is to respect the elderly and leaders and last, but not least, is to value the sky. Applied in everyday life this means that family is what you prioritize and also something you rely on even in the business world. To respect the elderly and learn from their wisdom is still very important. The sky represents nature, the environment and the ecosystem of human beings and all living animals, plants, water, soil and the air we breathe. Sadly, here it seems that people in China have lost their way and we saw a country full of pollution where all kinds of garbage being dumped on the ground.
Towards a better future
That said, we can still learn a lot from China. We need to adopt their confidence and further ease the way for the implementation of new technologies into our society. What we can bring to China are the important lessons we learned during our own process of industrialization and development. We can guide China in how to make society more sustainable and to take care of the finite natural resources our earth can provide. This will help us all assure that the world becomes a healthy place even for future generations. We need China and China needs us.
Executive MBA class of 2017-2019