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CIBER Award Recipient Studies China’s Economic Development

Dec 19, 2017
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Andrea FosterThe Center for Global Business (CGB) at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business awarded Andrea Foster, chair of Business, Economics, Accounting, Computer Applications, and Paralegal Studies at Montgomery College, with the opportunity to attend a Faculty Development in International Business (FDIB) program to China in May 2017.

Foster decided to participate in the FDIB program to witness China’s economic model and understand how China plans to support economic cooperation among countries that all have differing levels of economic political systems. Most importantly, she joined the FDIB so that her students could benefit directly from her experience and, ultimately, she could bring the world into the classroom. 

“The experience taught me that I need to structure my course to facilitate a more global focus for my students. Moving them from the traditional domestic focus to a global focus will only serve to enhance their ability to analyze global events and the implications for the U.S. domestic economy.”

Dr. Andrea Foster, Chair of Business, Economics, Accounting, Computer Applications, and Paralegal Studies at Montgomery College

Offered by universities across the country that are recipients of the CIBER (Center for International Business Education and Research) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, FDIB programs offer the unique opportunity for faculty in international business to gain firsthand knowledge of how business is conducted in a particular region of the world. The intended effort of FDIBs is to expand international business education in the classroom. Since 2015, the Center for Global Business (CGB) at the Robert H. Smith School of Business has run a competition to award a faculty member from a regional Minority Serving Institution (MSI) or Community College (CC) the opportunity to participate in a FDIB program of their choice.

The Center for Global Business awarded Foster this opportunity last year and she has not looked back. The program, organized by the CIBER at the University of Colorado at Denver, included a visit to the Xian International Trade and Logistics Park that demonstrated future development work in Xian’s deepwater port. As a participant, Foster also met with academics at Xian Jiatong University to discuss China’s economic model and the One Belt One Road (OBOR), which is a network of railways, roads, and airports considered a modern version of the Silk Road.

Read below for additional insight from Foster on the FDIB program to China:

Takeaways from the Program

A significant amount has been written both about China’s economic development as well as the OBOR initiative. For all intents and purposes, China appears to be a success story, delivering a stronger economy than most communist countries and succeeding where other communist countries had failed. 

The OBOR is indeed a massive undertaking that includes several industries and sectors, and trillions of dollars in infrastructural funding is anticipated to lead to major economic development for the countries involved. My decision to participate in the FDIB program was to witness China’s economic model in action. Also, I wanted to understand how China plans to support greater integration and economic cooperation among countries that all had differing levels of economic development and political systems – from Africa with some of the world’s poorest countries, to Europe that boasts some of the most industrialized and richest countries in the world. 

What became evident from this trip was the absence (or lack of involvement) of the U.S., a country with enormous political and economic global influence. Whether the lack of an American presence was intentional or unintentional, it is clear that China has decided who will call the shots, who will lead this group of countries, and who will make the major decisions within this group of countries. I am sure that China anticipates that it will not be the U.S. 

The FDIB program to China provided an opportunity to investigate, research, analyze, and gain an in-depth understanding of OBOR as a key economic driver that will facilitate (or hurt) China’s quest to attain greater global influence. The program helped to find some answers, while raising new questions. Should this initiative succeed in its anticipated scope? Will the US face major economic and political challenges to its global leadership? Would this challenge provide a significant enough shift that could give China greater global influence? In addition, will the 66 countries involved basically bend to the will of China?

Promoting Critical Thinking within a Global Context

Coming from an international background, I have always recognized that many of my students know very little about other countries or pay very little attention to countries outside of the U.S. After all, their class Introduction to Business course is primarily focused on the domestic economy.

I have already started to take a different approach to teaching my business class. I have made several changes and I am now encouraged to enhance and expand the nature of the challenges that I present to students in my classroom. I have expanded the number of topics with a global focus, and even the discussions and in-class activities have changed. The scope of discussions and assignments have taken on a more global focus giving my students a greater awareness of geopolitical issues and how they can impact the U.S. domestic economy. Students are now paying more attention to the global expansion of American companies into new markets and comparing and contrasting American companies’ approaches to the new China “go out” approach that encourages Chinese companies to find new markets abroad.

During the summer, my online Introduction to Business class included many graded activities that promoted critical thinking as students made various comparisons on economics, market expansion, trade, and geopolitical issues that could impact the economy. Students are encouraged to dig deeper as they compare and contrast the path taken by the countries like China and the U.S.

Just as I have made changes to the Introduction to Business class, I likewise plan to make some changes to my Small Business Management class. These changes are likewise influenced by what I learned on my China visit. My knowledge and understanding of entrepreneurship has also changed based on my visits to Sinovation, (a venture capital organization) and Shejiebang (Bang for short), China’s flagship provider of outbound customized travel service. 

Once again I came away with several new lessons that have somewhat influenced my outlook and perspective on entrepreneurship and starting a business. From these two organizations, I learned that every product should be developed with the global market in mind.

As was pointed out, we are in a global market and the impact of what goes on in the global market has an impact on every product and service.  Therefore, ignoring or downplaying the importance of this influence can be problematic for a new business venture or a product.  Each of these companies demonstrated how they were started in China but have since become globally recognized products.  Some of the companies and products that Sinovation invested in were selling globally shortly after launching. 

This is contrary to what we teach students in entrepreneurship. We teach them to focus on the local market initially and, as the product grows and expands, then they can examine if the product is right for the international marketplace. From the start, Chinese companies are focused on the international marketplace. 

Sharing with Business Faculty

My goal is for students to benefit directly from my experience. The knowledge that I have obtained has already been shared with other faculty members. I have conducted presentations (and will continue to do so for other disciplines beyond my discipline of business). Some faculty have already incorporated some of the materials that I have shared for various classroom activities.

I have shared not only my experiences, but ideas, concepts, and activities that relate to improving our students’ ability and thought process by giving them a global focus.  

Research

As U.S. interest has pivoted toward Asia, China saw the opportunity to boost regional integration of its neighbor and wider neighbors through the OBOR initiative. This initiative is seen as an alternative to the need for regional trade agreements. I am interested in conducting research on OBOR and the influence that this is likely to have on the global economy. The companies and places that we visit all aided in tying together the strategic importance that China has placed on the OBOR. In addition, the OBOR offers a lot of opportunity for those countries that are part of the initiative.  

Most of what has been written about OBOR is very positive. I am interested in conducting research about OBOR and its chance for success – will OBOR succeed and is it the right model for economic development for the small and developing countries that are involved? One other area that I am interested in researching relates to the measurement of success of various infrastructural projects undertaken so far. There have been some infrastructural projects that have not netted the anticipated results. Case in point: in Sri Lanka, the vacant $1.5 billion deep-water port and the $209 million airport is known as the world’s emptiest international airport. Will such situations create additional burden on these countries which, for the sake of economic development, are undertaking huge amount of debt in order to facilitate China’s dream and quest for global dominance? 

As one of 17 universities across the country to have the CIBER grant, CGB supports faculty from other institutions in the development of international business to broaden the reach as the only Title VI center in the state of Maryland higher education system. To learn more about how you can participate in a CIBER FDIB, please visit https://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/centers-excellence/ciber/initiatives-programs/faculty/fdibs.

- Marina Augoustidis, Assistant Director, Center for Global Business

- Elizabeth Burzenski, Coordinator, Center for Global Business

- Andrea Foster, Chair of Business, Economics, Accounting, Computer Applications, and Paralegal Studies, Montgomery College

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