China conference forges relationships, encourages partnerships

January 30 2007

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - If any message came through loud and clear at Indiana State University\'s first China business conference, it was that the United States and China have a lot to learn from each other, and that partnerships - at any level - can only serve to make both entities stronger.

The Jan. 24-25 conference, entitled \"China: A Two-Way Street,\" was an opportunity for ISU and China\'s Liaoning University - partners in international education since 1990 - to partner again for the sake of global economic development.

The event, which was also sponsored by Liaoning University and ISU\'s Networks Financial Institute, drew a crowd of more than 250 to the Westin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

\"There ought to be a town meeting in every city in America just like this,\" said Ted Fishman, author of \"China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World.\"

\"The awareness of China often doesn\'t get beyond the big numbers and the fear, and there\'s a lot of on-the-ground knowledge which is both comforting and essential for all of our futures,\" Fishman said. \"The panels here are superb, and the information is from real nuts-and-bolts practitioners.\"

A highlight of the conference was the visit by a trade delegation led by Sun Dagang, deputy director general of the Liaoning provincial government\'s Foreign Affairs Office, and several representatives from the Liaoning business, government and academic sectors.

The delegation was honored Jan. 23 at the Statehouse with a resolution in honor of Indiana\'s guests from the People\'s Republic of China. In a joint resolution, the Indiana House and Senate recognized the importance of friendship and mutual understanding between the two nations in order to advance international prosperity and peace. The resolution also recognized that ISU and Liaoning University have served as leaders in fostering mutual understanding and cooperation among government, education and business leaders.

The first day of the conference focused on the strategic benefits of U.S. companies conducting business in China and Chinese companies conducting business in Indiana. Participants heard from experts and executives who had succeeded in their strategies. Keynote speakers included Fishman and Jack Perkowski, founder and CEO of China?s leading auto parts manufacturer, ASIMCO, one of the most successful Western-owned businesses in China. Attendees participated in a variety of panel discussions involving executives from Cummins International, Reilly Chemical, Kimball International and Rolls Royce, among others.

The second day focused on China\'s economy and financial future. A panel of experts with first-hand experience in Chinese banking and finance analyzed strengths and weaknesses in the Chinese financial system, the pace of economic reform, and how China\'s financial sector may impact the pace of Chinese economic growth.

Paul C. Lo, CEO of Bank SinoPac Holdings, Taiwan, and an ISU alumnus, was among the presenters.

Lo, who earned his master of business administration degree from Indiana State in 1970, founded 15 years ago Bank SinoPac (with locations throughout Asia and California), which has been recognized by Asiamoney as \"The Best Commercial Bank in Taiwan.\" SinoPac boasts more than 8,000 employees and over $35 billion in assets, but beyond financial capital, Lo said he feels that human capital should be a business\' most prized possession.

\"I think human capital is very important because when you have human capital, you have financial capital,\" said Lo, who also built extra time into his visit to make presentations to ISU students and faculty in the College of Business.

The key to building bridges to China and back again is ?communication and communication and communication,\" Lo said. \"You know, Asian cultures are a little different from United States cultures. But through communication you get to know each other a little better. And, through education we will change people\'s behavior. Then people can become better equipped to compete in the future world. I think that\'s very important.\"

ISU President Lloyd W. Benjamin III laid the groundwork for the conference during an August 2006 visit to Liaoning University.

\"For our friends from Liaoning who are partnering on this conference with us, it\'s really an opportunity for them to talk about who they are and what they\'re about, a time for them to personally be able to make their ties in Indiana,\" Benjamin said. \"It gives them an opportunity when they return home to talk to their party officials, to talk to businesses growing in that part of the world and also to work with faculty on their campus to report back about what they see as opportunities in Indiana.\"

Liaoning University President Cheng Wei, a professor of economics, sees the effort to reach out to the world at large as an important role that all higher education institutions are called to play, but one that ISU and Liaoning, in particular, are actively pursuing as partners, colleagues and friends.

\"Higher education, I think, has three functions. The first is to provide education for people. The second is to do research, and the third is to assist in social development,\" Wei said. \"Several years ago, President Benjamin and I started to focus on the third function of higher education, and we are considering assisting in the development of the learning process at Indiana State and having Indiana State play a role in that process as a bridge.

\"So, for a conference like today, it is a very good platform for the people from enterprises, the education area and the government, to exchange ideas and information,\" Wei added. \"This platform also will help the Chinese companies to understand the United States better, and it might, in the future, encourage them to invest in the United States.\"

And, these investments, particularly from companies in the Midwest, could serve as a litmus test for the rest of the world, according to Fishman.

\"Indiana is in the center of the country, but it\'s also the canary in the mine for our China experience because manufacturing is so dominant here. Not only does Indiana have a lot to learn from these panels, but the rest of us have a lot to learn from what happens in Indiana,\" Fishman said.

And, as time goes by, more and more companies will find it very attractive to come to the United States \"to acquire technology which they can share with their companies in China but also exploit in the U.S.,\" according to Jack Tatom, director of research for Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University.

\"Not only are American resources moving to China but resources are moving back, and product is moving back and forcing American industry to become more competitive and more profitable at the same time,\" Tatom added. \"So, that\'s the two-way street. It really is good for American investors and American consumers, and it\'s very good for American workers, even though you don\'t hear that very often.\"

The U.S.-China business conference marks the latest chapter in a 16-year relationship between Indiana State and Liaoning universities that grew out of a Fulbright Teacher Study Abroad Program in 1990. It is a relationship that continues to evolve and strengthen. Liaoning University also has agreed to host a similar conference in China in 2008, involving business, academic and government leaders from Indiana.

In addition, Xing Yuanyuan, chair of the department of world economy in the School of International Relations at Liaoning University, is serving an 18-month fellowship in economics at ISU. Additional faculty exchanges are expected, and ISU and the universities are working on creating a joint economics program and student exchange programs that would allow students to earn degrees from both institutions.

\"I think these people, after they experience the different culture and learn the knowledge from the two different countries, they will play a very important job in the future development of the relationship of the two countries,\" Wei said.

Indiana State, through it\'s top-notch Networks Scholars Program (now 70 students strong), has regular opportunities to expose its cream-of-the-crop financial services students to foreign cultures as part of their professional development plan at the university. Whether it be for study tours, job shadowing trips or corporate visits, these top scholars are jumping in with both feet at the global level.

\"Their eyes are open,\" said Liz Coit, executive director of Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State, \"and their ideas about what they might want to do and where they might want to pursue careers have completely changed. So, we have a new generation of future leaders in the industry who have much broader goals and are very excited to participate on a global basis and not just here in Indiana. They\'re interested in bringing that knowledge back to Indiana and in taking what they\'ve learned here, globally.\"

Whitney Lewis, a junior Networks Scholar from Alexandria, knows the value of international experience. She traveled to Taiwan with President Benjamin and three fellow students in 2005, and she\'s planning a return trip over spring break. In her mind, that exposure isn\'t as much a choice as it is a necessity.

\"Definitely keep an open mind,\" Lewis said. \"You can\'t think in the perspective of staying in a box anymore. You\'ve got to think outside the box. You\'ve got to realize that we\'re no longer in a situation where it\'s just the United States. It\'s part of our world to go out and work with other countries and to experience them and grow from them.\"

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PHOTO GALLERIES: Gallery 1 Gallery 2 Gallery 3 Gallery 4

MEDIA CONTACT AND WRITER: Maria Greninger, associate director, Communications & Marketing, Indiana State University, (812) 237-4357 or 237-7972 or mgreninger@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

The United States and China have a lot to learn from each other, and partnerships - at any level - can only serve to make both entities stronger. This was the message, and global economic development was the focus, at a first-ever China business conference sponsored by Indiana State University, China's Liaoning University and ISU's Networks Financial Institute.

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