February 22, 2008

Professor Steven Feldman to discuss American-Chinese business relations

Steve Feldman

American and Chinese business relations have been placed under a magnifying glass following last year's food and toy recalls and the ethical and cultural differences will be viewed with more intensity with the approaching Olympic Games this summer in Beijing.

The relations and challenges are also at the center of Case Western Reserve associate professor Steve Feldman's research.

Feldman spent the first part of 2007 in the People's Republic of China as a Distinguished Professor of Business Ethics through the Fulbright Scholars program. He will talk about his firsthand experiences teaching and carrying out international business ethics research in the Far East on Thursday, Feb. 28. "China Lessons: A Fulbright Experience in Shanghai" will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the Toepfer Room in Adelbert Hall. Lunch will be provided.

"There is a fair amount of misunderstanding between the two cultures," said Feldman, who teaches courses in management policy and management ethics at the Weatherhead School of Management and the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organization's Management Education program. "China has a very complicated and very different social system culture than the United States. However, the Chinese have a hunger to learn more about the outside world and especially about the United States."

The Chinese business culture is one that has been slowly developing since 1978 when government officials ushered in economic reforms, which aimed at improving living conditions in the country and opening it up to an outside world it had been shut off from for years.

"The Chinese are moving along, but are still fairly far behind the United States in terms of experience and development," said Feldman. "Many of the ideas I brought with me were very new concepts to them."

Feldman taught two courses, one undergraduate and one graduate, in business ethics at Shanghai International Studies University, located 45 minutes from central Shanghai.

He mentioned many American executives compare the current environment in the Chinese business world as being like the "Wild West," a time where few rules and regulations governed the American frontier. He noted that corruption and bribery are a big part of the Chinese economic fabric.

"There's a lot of corruption, starting at the local levels of government, moving up to the regional levels and beyond on," Feldman said. "The reforms of the late 1970's have created a great economic engine and prosperity in some places, but also led to a great deal of corruption."

He also says that intellectual property rights violations, distrust of strangers, and intense interpersonal loyalty often result in turning a blind eye to unethical or substandard business practices. However, change is occurring, but at a slow pace.

"Pressures from outside governments are forcing change in China," Feldman said. "Membership in the World Trade Organization has certain criteria. Businesses from all over the world are moving in, and it's creating a very challenging and competitive marketplace."

In addition to teaching, Feldman was also able to conduct research for a book he is working on detailing business relations between the two countries.. He was able to speak with 34 Chinese businessmen who do business with U.S. firms and hear their perspective on business relations between the two countries, matching the number of American business professionals who conduct business in China he had earlier spoken to.

Feldman's talk will also provide insight to faculty interested in learning more about the Fulbright program. This was his second Fulbright award, having taught management courses in Austria in 1991.

"The Fulbright program offers a wonderful experience," he said. "It's fascinating to be able to learn about a different culture."

About The Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program, the United State's flagship international educational exchange program, is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Since its inception, the Fulbright Program has exchanged approximately 273,500 people—102,900 Americans who have studied, taught or researched abroad and 170,600 students, scholars and teachers from other countries who have engaged in similar activities in the United States. The Program operates in 150 countries worldwide.

Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

For more information regarding the presentation, or to make reservations for the luncheon, contact Lois Langell at (216) 368-4342 or lois.langell@case.edu.

For more information contact Jason Tirotta, 216.368.6890.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, February 22, 2008 11:00 AM | News Topics: Awards, Collaborations/Partnerships, Events, Faculty, Mandel Center for Non-Profit Organizations, Weatherhead School of Management

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