Shedding a Light on China


Shedding a Light on China

Hui Xu brings a global perspective to UVU as a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence

By Brad Plothow
UVU Magazine, Spring 2012 

China is making a profit on its burgeoning economy. In the process, it’s making a prophet out of Napoleon Bonaparte.

“China is a sleeping giant,” the French leader is believed to have said in the 18th or 19th century. “When she wakes, she will shake the world.”

She’s up and at ‘em.

The world’s eyes turned to China last year when it leapfrogged Japan as the globe’s second largest economy. China had been on the rise for 50 years, but something about this particular news item verified that China had arrived. After looming for decades, China suddenly trailed only the U.S. in global economic influence.

With the rest of the world, Utah Valley University has watched China’s rise with interest. In recent years, UVU has formalized that interest. From academics to conferences to partnerships, Utah’s largest public university has put an institutional spotlight on the world’s most populous nation. Most recently, UVU won the distinction of hosting a scholar-in-residence from China through the Fulbright program. As a visiting scholar, Professor Hui Xu brings unique perspective and expertise to UVU.

“My objective is to help people learn how to do business in China and throughout the world,” says Hui, who has been with the prestigious business school at Nankai University since 1997. “People in China know a lot about the United States. People in the United States will want to know more about China and other places in the world to do international business.”

In connection with her Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence grant, Hui was assigned to teach and consult at UVU during the spring 2012 semester. A decorated academic in the fields of international business and marketing, Hui represents a connection to China and the world of global business for students, faculty and the community.

Fulbright pipeline

Hui was one of only about 50 international scholars given grants through the Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence program for 2012. Her presence at UVU is the latest evidence of a growing pipeline with Fulbright, which is a U.S. government program designed to facilitate the exchange of ideas between the U.S. and other countries.

The Fulbright program pairs up talented academics with interested hosts. In Hui’s case, she had applied to come to the U.S. at the same time that UVU administrators had requested a visiting scholar from China. Paul Dishman, chair of UVU’s marketing department and a former Fulbright Scholar, helped write the proposal.

“We’re very serious about the China initiative, so it made sense to request a Chinese academic,” Dishman says. “It’s really a prestigious thing to have been selected, and it’s important not only for the institution’s focus on China and its growing influence in the world, but also for UVU’s growing reputation with Fulbright.”

When Dishman went to Montenegro in 2010 as a Fulbright Scholar, he was the first academic from UVU to go overseas for Fulbright work. He greased the skids. In 2011, UVU was named a “top producer” by the Fulbright program for sending Ruhul Kuddus, associate professor of biology, to Bangladesh and Jon Westover, assistant professor of business management, to Belarus. Hui is UVU’s first visiting scholar through the Fulbright program.

Global spotlight: China

During the 2010-2011 academic year, UVU turned a bright light on the Far East. UVU held a conference on doing business with China, included a focus on China in its Business Engagement Strategy, and President Matthew S. Holland and Dean Norman Wright were part of a delegation that traveled with Gov. Gary Herbert to create diplomatic and educational ties between Utah and China. In 2011, UVU was one of 10 U.S. institutions selected for a special China initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

All that attention is certainly warranted — there is nearly universal agreement that the not-so-sleepy giant is now a force to be reckoned with. With more than 1.3 billion people, China is by the far the largest nation on earth. China has 171 cities with more than 1 million people, including Tianjin, Hui’s home, which boasts more than 5 million residents. An urban migration over the past few decades has positioned that massive population for unparalleled economic influence.

Throughout China’s bumpy past, such a dense concentration of people has been a double-edged sword. As both an academic observer and a citizen, Hui has seen firsthand that China can do things on a scale that can’t be matched, but the country is just now learning how to leverage that potential.

“The Chinese market is very large,” Hui says. “It’s a very large market for production and consumption.”

As a producer, China can tap into a workforce that’s nearly triple the size of the entire U.S. population. In Longhua, Shenzhen, the Foxconn factory employs between 300,000 and 450,000 people who manufacture a range of popular electronic devices including the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPod and Microsoft Xbox 360. The operation is so gargantuan that it includes dormitories and municipal services such as firefighters. By comparison, Davis County in northern Utah is home to about 310,000 people. Operations like Foxconn made China the world’s top exporter in 2010.

On the consumption side, China represents the world’s largest collection of potential buyers, and U.S. companies have taken notice. Major global brands like Apple and Coca-Cola are very popular in China, Hui says, and while Chinese immersion is just now gaining traction in the U.S., the Chinese typically learn English at an early age.

Part of her Fulbright experience will be helping UVU students and local businesspeople understand the cultural dynamics that are important to the Chinese. There are the small things, such as presenting your business card with two hands. And then there are the big things, such as how the Chinese blend their business and social agendas. Plenty of business is done over dinner, Hui says, and it might take several meetings before there’s any shoptalk.

“If you want to do business in China, you have to have good relationships, especially with the local government,” Hui says. “You have to invest in taking the time to build good relationships.”

Hui’s main touch point with students is through the classes she team-teaches in the Woodbury School of Business. The author of four books and numerous scholarly papers, Hui had also prepared three academic articles with UVU colleagues in the first weeks she arrived in Utah, with more in the works. Ultimately, Hui hopes to awaken students, faculty and the community to a realization that China can’t be ignored in today’s global business climate.

Though a small man, Napoleon certainly knew a giant when he saw one.