Building Relationships Across Cultural Borders

President Baker with Yaqin Long, a senior finance major at George Fox, and her family.

I enjoy spending time with our students. On this trip to China, I had the opportunity to spend the day with the family of Yaqin Long, a senior finance major at George Fox. Yaqin has done very well at George Fox and will graduate from our business program in December. She and her family live in the city of Dongguan in southern China, where they run several manufacturing businesses that develop products for export to the United States and Europe. When we met Yaqin in China, she took a day off from her GMAT studies (she hopes to attend a very fine MBA program in the U.S.) to host me for a day.

Yaqin’s uncle, Victor, owns several manufacturing businesses in Dongguan, and he and his brothers have successfully developed them. Their family store is quite inspirational. The Longs were farmers in central China, and Victor and his brothers began working in the industrial sector of the Chinese economy in the early 1980s. They started at the ground level in the companies, eventually attaining appointments as machinists, and saved their money until they were able to start their own manufacturing enterprises. Now they own three large plants producing products for Speedo, Under Armour, Cole Haan and other major American companies.

Employees hand-sew pieces of leather together.

We spent several hours one morning touring the various plants, and I was very impressed. Yaqin’s father, Shu Chu Long, guided us through them. We visited the assembly lines and observed workers making both Speedo glasses and OluKai shoes. I was surprised at how much of the work was still done by hand (I had assumed that most of the work was done by machines today). OluKai is a new shoe company that sells a very nice leisure shoe in the United States. Most of the finish work on their shoes was done by hand.

In our conversations it was evident that Mr. Long was open to collaboration with our School of Business and the possibility of interns serving his company both in the United States and China. The language barrier remains significant, but having relationships with unique Chinese companies provides experiences that few American colleges are able to give!

Dr. Thomas Peng always tries to provide me with a little time to shop in China, so he scheduled time with Yaqin and her cousin, Ling, to take me around to various shops in Dongguan. We had a great day. Both Ling and Yaqin hosted me very well, and we had a great time. (Thomas rarely goes on these excursions: He always tells me I have a man’s body but a woman’s heart when it comes to shopping, so he sends me out with the women.)

We had one interesting experience during the day. Ruth likes teacups, so Yaqin and Ling helped me locate the Great Wall tea shop in a department store. I actually purchased two cups because it was buy one get one free day, and I gave one to them. On the way down the stairs my bag broke (the one from the store), and the cup fell out and broke. I figured it was just my bad luck. As Ling saw it, it was the store’s fault and they were going to give us another one. So we went back upstairs and Ling argued with the store manager for more than 30 minutes. Ultimately, I think the manager was just tired and told her to take another one. Of course, I don’t understand Mandarin, so I was in the dark as the conversation developed, but I did notice that Ling can be very persuasive. She and Yaqin noted that in the U.S. the customer is usually correct; in China, the story can be quite different. In any case, I was grateful to Yaqin and Ling for a nice tour of the shopping districts of Dongguan.

Yaqin is a wonderful example of the success of our Chinese student program. She is getting an opportunity to be educated at a Christian university in the United States, and we are gaining new friends in China.

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One Response to Building Relationships Across Cultural Borders

  1. Brian Cottrell says:

    Wonderful story and highlights given for one of our students.

    I would love to dialogue more about GFU and China. I’m presently in Nanchang, China as a English Teacher at Nanchang University. This is my 8th trip to China with the first trip being as a China Studies Program students via GFU.

    Blessings to you and your staff during the 2012 – 2013 school year.

    Brian Cottrell

    GFU ’05