LUDLOW- More than 40 executives from several U.S. chambers of commerce, including Vermont, visited four Chinese cities earlier this month as part of a business mission. Joining the junket was Marji Graf of the Okemo Valley Chamber of Commerce in Ludlow. The trip included sightseeing and business meetings.
"We visited cities on the east coast of China: Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai," said Graf. "We saw the high end, middle and very poor low end. We toured a pearl factory, a jade factory, a silk rug factory and a tea plantation."
According to Graf, chamber executives received an introduction to Chinese culture, geography and commerce.
"The Hangzhou Municipal Government hosted a banquet dinner for us," she said. "It was very formal and we met with Janet Zhu, vice president of the Hangzhou Municipal Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau, (Communist)Party Secretary Hang Qing Hun, Jonathan Zhang of the Hangzhou Economic and Technological Development Area, Wei Gao, the project director of foreign trade, Hu Liya, project officer and Tong Gull, deputy mayor of Hangzhou."
Graf said that she learned that most foreign investment is in coastal China. Residents along the coast are supposedly more educated and have a higher standard of living.
Unlike America's declining industrial base, China's industry is 45 percent of GDP with services at 40 percent-India being stronger.
Graf noted that China's philosophy of customer service is different from America's.
"American: Early birds get the worm. Chinese" The first bird in the flock gets shot. Don't stand out in a crowd. Generation Y is different, too. It's message me on my terms."
Graf said that China is a relative newcomer to the Internet. It's earliest online presence was in late.
Not unlike the U.S. China also has a growing disparity between rich and poor.
"This was a very fast-paced trip, Graf said. "Our first full day was in Beijing where we visited Tiananmen Square and the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City. We had a rickshaw ride through old Bejing and lunch at a local families house which was delicious. We visited The summer palace, Kumming Lake, Longevity Hill, Seventeen-arch bridge and Marble boat."
Graf said one of her favorite highlights of the trip was a visit to the Temple of Heaven built in 1420 A.D.
"I climbed the right side of the Great Wall to the end. The wall is 4,000 miles long and 2,000 years old. The steps were uneven with some higher than others. We all got a great workout. We also visited one of the 13 Ming Emporer Tombs," she said.
The remaining days of the chamber junket included visits to Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou with the highlight evening banquet at the Hangzhou World Trade Center.
"It was grand," Graf added. "We were welcomed and had a power point presentation about investing in Hangzhou. The city has been the fastest growing city over the last 10-15 years. The government will bend over backwards for foreign investment. I was invited to sit at the head table and made valuable contacts."
Graf said the same trip-without the business meetings- will be repeated March 26, 2012, for $2,200 all inclusive. Chamber members and other area residents are welcome to sign up.
This May 16, the Okemo Chamber will hold a China orientation for those interested in travelling with chamber staff and members.
"You don't have to be a Chamber member to participate," Graf said. For more details, visit the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, 57 Pond St., Suite 8, in Ludlow or call the office at 802-228-5830.