Name: Kristie McAlpine
Status: Graduate Student - Human Resources and Labor Relations
Hometown: Essexville, MI
Program: Human Resources and Employment Relations (China); Summer 2010
My two-week trip to China turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had on either a personal or professional level. The ability for us to take learning outside of the classroom was unparalleled. Not only were we able to spend time attending lectures and working with Chinese students and professors at two universities, Renmin University in Beijing and Nanjing School of Business in Nanjing, we were able to visit a host of multinational companies to hear their perspectives on the subjects we studied in the classroom both in the United States and in China. Through our visits to Microsoft, Intel, GE, Honeywell, Shell, Dow Chemical, General Mills, A.O. Smith, BASF, and Eaton, we were able to witness the effects of recent labor laws (e.g. Labor Contract Law of 2008) on companies operating in China. In addition, we were able to meet with two national trade union officials (which are closely tied to the government and the Chinese Communist Party) to hear their perspectives on the Contract Law and the overall state of labor and employment relations in China. All of these visits greatly expanded my knowledge base about Chinese politics and geography, international labor and employment legislation, and international business. I feel confident in my ability to understand and describe the major challenges facing China now and in the future, such as the country's shortage of experienced knowledge workers, the potential effects of automation on the labor force, and the role of the CCP in regulating the employment relationship. Overall, this expanded knowledge will help me in the future as more firms develop their business relationships in China and need to draw on the expertise of human resources professionals who understand the complexities of the labor force and have the ability to work through the challenges they pose.
On a personal level, traveling to China afforded me with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to climb the Great Wall of China, to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in Beijing, and to experience the excitement of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. The Great Wall of China prompted me to reflect on the long, storied history of China, which developed a strong civilization centuries before the West was ever established. Similarly, the Forbidden City brought the rich Chinese culture to life, allowing us to explore the former living space of influential leaders who shaped the country along its path. Tiananmen Square transported us back to the historic moment in 1989 when protestors sacrificed their lives in pursuit of democracy, only to see the CCP tighten its grip on the country. Finally, visiting the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai reminded us that we are all citizens of the world and must work together to tackle the common challenges that we face. Although each nation's exhibit highlighted different languages, cultures, and technologies, the goal presented by each was the same: the establishment of a high quality of life for its people. As I move forward, I will take with me the vast knowledge of business, politics, and culture that I gained on this trip, along with the reminder that I must act respectfully and responsibly as a citizen of the United States and the world.