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The Cost of Doing Business in China

An American professor shares experiences of working in China

By Gisela Sommer
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 8, 2013 Last Updated: February 8, 2013
Related articles: Opinion » Thinking About China
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Dr. Lynn Knight in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, Westlake, China, May, 2006. (Courtesy Dr. Lynn Knight)

Dr. Lynn Knight in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, Westlake, China, May, 2006. (Courtesy Dr. Lynn Knight)

An American professor and management consultant, who recently returned from eight years of working with international corporations and teaching at a number of universities in China, says he has a lot of issues with China and has no desire to return there. 

“One of the biggest struggles I had in China was maintaining my ethics, maintaining those core values that, as Americans, we’re brought up with,” Dr. Lynn Knight told The Epoch Times in an interview. “When you go to China, all of that gets turned upside down,” he said. 

Dr. Knight holds a Masters degree in Organizational Psychology from Harvard University, a Masters of Management from Cambridge College, and a Ph.D. in management and workforce performance from San Diego University I.S. With over 30 years’ experience in workforce development, he has worked with a number of multinational companies and learning institutions, including BMW, ADL Corporation, Beijing United Family Hospital, Bank of China, Lenovo Computers, Sino-British Institute, and China Agricultural University and has coached a range of leaders, from CEO’s, senior vice managers, middle managers, and line managers.

Dr. Knight stated that, like many people back in the early 2000s, he thought China was the place to be in terms of economic growth and business opportunities and the international organizations there could use his services.

Before setting out for China in 2004, his plan was to start a workforce management consulting business in China by partnering with a Chinese individual, “Mr. Wu,” whom he had met through a mutual friend in the United States. He was forewarned by people with prior experience of working and living in China that he needed to have a plan B in the event that things didn’t work out. They told him the best thing would be to get a teaching job at one of the universities, saying with his degrees and qualifications, he would definitely be hired. So, with a teaching contract at a university in China as well as this potential business partner, Dr. Knight felt that he was on his way. 

However, the business relationship didn’t work out, he said, and the initial teaching job also didn’t go well.

Dr. Knight said he has no desire to go back to China, and he wouldn’t necessarily encourage people at this point to venture off to China to do business given China’s current social and political problems. 

Everything Changed Upon Arrival 

When Dr. Knight arrived at Yang En University in Fujian Province with nine other foreign teachers who had all been hired to teach various academic subjects, they found “dire” conditions.

“You look at this Yang En University’s website, as I did in America; it seemed like a very modern university. The surroundings seemed very modern, they looked no different than any other university in America. But looks can be deceiving,” Dr. Knight said. 

The university was next to a very small village called Majia, about two and a half hours drive from Xiaman, the next largest city with an international airport.

Dr. Knight said that within seconds of arriving many of the things agreed upon changed, including contract, living arrangements, pay, and the number of students per class.

Their living quarters were not ready at the time of their arrival, and they had to live in a dirty, rundown hotel for several days. However, their apartments turned out not any better; they were very dirty, with no running water or electricity. 

“We were told, ‘don’t worry, we’ll take care of this, this is only temporary,’ but it went on for six months,” Dr. Knight said. 

“The phrase ‘don’t worry’ became a common term during my stay in China,” he added. “It meant, ‘you’ll get used to it.’”

Cheating

One major issue that he quickly had to get used to was the magnitude of cheating among Chinese students and Chinese teachers’ seeming acceptance of this behavior, Dr. Knight said. He learned that lesson in his first two months of class at Yang En during his first examination he had to give the students. 

After he wrote up the exam, he was told to take it to the copying room, and they would make copies for all the students. On the day of the examination he distributed the booklets, and the students sat down to take the exam, which he had estimated would take them about an hour and a half to complete. But this particular class finished it in 20 minutes. 

“I was dumbfounded, and thinking to myself, wow, Chinese kids are really smart!” Dr. Knight said. “Then I asked myself, how can 110 Chinese students with very limited English comprehension do this well?”

Only later did he learn from his foreign colleagues that the students had been cheating, because he not only dropped off the exam at the copying room, but also the answer key--as was required by the school. The copy room people then sold the students copies of the answers.

And that’s why they were able to finish their exams so quickly. They didn’t even have to read the questions. As it was multiple choice, and true or false, all they had to do was memorize the order of the A, B, and C and the true and false. “And they are very good at memorization,” Dr. Knight said. 

“My heart just sunk, because, again, it’s going against the grain of how we are taught and how students are in America,” he said. 





   

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