I am currently interning at the Science, Technology and Education Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing. My team works closely together with swissnex China in Shanghai. Together we promote Switzerland as a prime location for research, innovation, and technology. We also strive to bring China closer to all our Swiss stakeholders and help the different parties connect the dots.
So, the coordination and cooperation between our teams in Beijing and Shanghai happens on a regular basis. And last week I received the opportunity to finally visit my colleagues in Shanghai in person.
The meeting was merry, and the Japanese food over lunch tasty (seafood in Shanghai is so much better than in Beijing). Although the business part of my trip was effective, I consider the social aspect more important. In any setting I can think of, if you want some people to move from merely being a “group” to being a “team”, you have to create opportunities for them to build trust and bond with each other. Only then will they voluntarily share information and only then the “whole” is worth more than the “sum of its parts”. In this sense the “business” trip to Shanghai was very successful in my opinion.
Actually, my visit to swissnex was a return. Just after my undergraduate studies I interned at swissnex for two months in 2009. With the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, which had just gone by, and the approaching World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 the development momentum in the country was growing ever stronger.
And today, some years later, you can see how much the country has changed. Shanghai has definitely become friendlier to foreigners, and foreigners continue to be attracted to Shanghai. A study by Shanghai Jiaotong University revealed that 90 percent of expatriates surveyed in 2011 had a positive image of the city. It is thus no wonder that some 143,000 foreigners, or a quarter of all foreign residents in China, were living in Shanghai that year. And the Shanghainese seem to be open-mined toward them. Upon entering a local convenience store I was surprised to have the clerk talk to me in English – this is still much more unlikely to happen in Beijing.
Shanghai is very pleasant and “好玩儿”. But this Chinese city with “European characteristics” certainly only represents one facet of today’s China.