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Rapid innovation in China makes country 'fascinating case study' for college students

Jiwon Kim of the North Dakota Trade Office speaks Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at the "Global Innovation: Business in China" conference at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 2
Peter Geib, right, and Ruth Lumb participate in a panel discussion Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at the "Global Innovation: Business in China" conference at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 2

MOORHEAD—Fargo-Moorhead's businesses and residents are no longer isolated from the events and conditions happening across the world, according to Anne Blackhurst.

"It is increasingly obvious that understanding the social, cultural and economic conditions of other countries is critical to our own well-being and our collective future," said Blackhurst, president of Minnesota State University Moorhead, during a Wednesday, April 12, event on campus.

And that's especially the case with China, she said.

MSUM's Paseka School of Business hosted a seminar on global innovation and how it affects business in China, a big topic as long physical distances give way to an interconnected economy.

Faculty member Peter Geib said there are many reasons to study China, including the fact that it's become one of the wealthiest nations in the world in record time. The country's per capita income rose from $300 in 1988 to between $9,000 and $10,000 today, he said.

"We see a China which is transforming not only in terms of economic development, but in terms of core cultural values as well as economic values," he said. "It is a fascinating case study for our students."

Fellow faculty member Ruth Lumb said 20 percent of the world's population lives in China. The country has the second-largest economy, behind only the U.S., and now accounts for about 12 percent of the world's economy.

That rapid economic growth, along with the country's "voracious appetite" for materials as it builds up infrastructure, means there are more business opportunities than ever before, she said.

"No matter what kind of business you look at or where your business is located, you just might be having competition from China," she said.

Jiwon Kim, manager of international business development for the North Dakota Trade Office, told the crowd at Wednesday's event about his interactions with one young Chinese businessman that illustrated the importance of recognizing cultural differences.

He met the man in 2012 on a trade mission to China, and the two met several more times over the next few years. In late 2015, he emailed Kim with a business plan to open a bottling plant in the state so he could export bottled water to China.

In the end, Kim said, that acquaintance chose North Dakota over several other states and cities because of their personal relationship, as well as Kim's assistance in helping the man's father and cousin find business connections in America.

"Of course, it takes time," he said, pointing out it took five years of work before this business opportunity was started.

Patrick Stroh, an alumnus of MSUM and president of Mercury Business Advisors, outlined how he presents on the importance of innovation for businesses during talks he gives around the world, including in China.

He said innovation is increasingly recognized as a crucial goal for businesses of all kinds. Not long ago, Chinese firms tended to excel at "mimicking," or remaking inventions or innovations from other corporations, but the country is now driving rapid innovation.

"China now wants to be a leading innovator in the world, so the days of mimicking and copying things are getting to be more behind us," he said.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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