In August 2015, I was invited to meet 2 professors from Shanghai Finance University. They were touring post-secondary institutions in Ontario and marketing their university to individuals who might consider teaching in China.
After meeting them, I was intrigued by this possibility. Over the years, I had been to China a fair number of times. The first time was in 1985 when as Sales and Marketing manager, selling heat-exchangers used in refrigerators; the last time being in May 2015, when I had taken 21 students to Suzhou and Shanghai for 4 days in each city.
I had been keen to better understand China ever since Pierre E. Trudeau, Prime-Minister of Canada in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, had opened the door to China. Canada was one of the first Western nations to recognize the communist government of China in 1970. News articles started coming into Canada describing what was happening in China.
What emerged, were incredible stories of a millennium old country. China had been under foreign influence for the better part of 100 years. It was now trying to re-establish itself as an independent country after a damaging war with Japan followed by a civil war.
Its leader, Mao Zedong, was charismatic and innovative. Communism was the way to ensure that its people would not starve to death, allowing China to rejoin the advanced countries in the world. This had all the elements to attract the interest of an idealistic kid.
The excitement continued over the following decades. The Cultural Revolution that was aiming to re-energize the country had petered out. A new leader, after the death of Mao in 1976, took the country into a new direction. The progressive opening of China in the 80’s brought me for the first time into the bowel of this emerging giant. By the 90’s the economic might of China was being felt around the world, leading to a large number of job losses in the 2000’s as goods could be sourced in China at a fraction of the manufacturing price in the West.
By 2010, its economy had overtaken Japan, forcing a political realignment of nations. China threatened the leadership of the USA. The unipolar world was being challenged. The question in everyone’s mind was and remains: when would China’s economy overtake the USA?
What will happen next? To better understand this question and possible answers I elected to work in China for one year.