This was the morning that I realized that there was no internet connection back to the United States.
Yes, it took 5 days.
Or anywhere else outside of China. I could not update Facebook, access Google, or even get to my personal website to check email. It was an odd feeling to be in a country with such advanced technology but to feel so isolated.
I was able to use Skype for phone calls so all was not lost.
Today we started our visit with Sinotruck who, ironically, asked that we not to take any photos on the production floor or premises. A country notorious for stealing intellectual property was suddenly conscious of the issue and looking to protect it’s secrets.
The company manufactures light and heavy duty trucks used all over the world. We toured the assembly line and were shocked to see no evidence of safety equipment. No gloves, no ear protection, no eye protection, no anything as workers nimbly danced in and out of chassis moving down the line, assembling this or placing that. The floor, areas, even rafters were clean, no sign of grease, chemical spill or blood anywhere in sight.
There were painted lines, rights of way, signage, and other protection in the areas. I don’t want to make it sound stunningly dangerous, we were limited to an overhead catwalk to keep us off the floor and out of the way and I didn’t see any sign of injury or issue. In addition, we were shown the training area for workers. Individuals can sign up and receive cross training in other areas to support the company if someone is ill or unable to work, or to be promoted to a new area or job.
Next we toured Sang Le Solar a company that builds and sells solar powered water heaters for installation on building roofs. This is a highly efficient system and provides (mostly) hot water for bathing and sinks in apartments and smaller homes. Parts for the water heaters are made by another Chinese company including the key component, the tubes that make the system operate efficiently.
There was an explanation for the importance of the tubes, demonstrations, and even visuals but since I don’t have an engineering degree I relied on the nods and approving looks of the engineers with the group. The company is fortunate to have a government contract and the units are ordered and installed on government owned apartment buildings. This means guaranteed sales and maintenance contracts for the company. This is in direct contrast to the water bottling company we visited yesterday. There was not an apparent lack of pride in the work of Sang Le, but it was definitely not as enthusiastic.
We attended a reception at Shandong University, and their business students. Remarks were made, gifts exchanged and we were broken into groups to meet and talk about business in China and the United States.
Conversation was a bit stilted at first. It was explained that Chinese students are educated in a very traditional form, with students taking notes or listening to a teacher without asking questions or requesting clarification until after the class is over. This makes for limited English speaking, but their written English was better than most native speakers I know. So if there was a breakdown in communication, all that was required was a pen and paper to get things going again.
To a person they were all college graduates who could not find jobs in their field of study. The jobs they had were working on factory lines, in department stores as cashiers, or other places where they could find work. They had returned to graduate school, passing very competitive examinations, in the hope that they would be eligible for jobs at higher salaries with less manual labor and able to work in professional areas in which they were interested.
After pleasantries and introductions, the first conversations began in our groups. The focus turned to oil and seeking new markets for materials made with crude, such as plastics and clothing.
The second conversation was on elder care and medical care for the Chinese. Both conversations were fascinating if for no other reason than just to hear someone speak to familiar issues from a different culture.
We ended the evening in a traditional Karaoke bar. While there are photos of that, I’m not sharing them. Some things just have to stay in China…