China Comes to Queens

By Barbara Ritchin
Executive Director, Continuing
Education, Queens College

When 35 men and women from China came to Queens College last October, they were feted at three functions where they were served "typical" American fare such as pancakes and eggs for breakfast, wine and hors d'oeuvres at a cocktail party, and a buffet dinner. But considering the reason for their enrollment at Queens, perhaps a visit to McDonald's or Domino's Pizza might have been more fitting.

For these visitors from mainland China had come to take an intensive seminar on the American market economy. All were high-level executives in China's largest ministry, the Ministry of Machine Industry, which generates 35% of the nation's GNP, employs 20 million workers, and even administers 27 universities. Among them were the vice president of the optimistically named National Perfect Machinery Corporation, the deputy director of the Nanjing Automobile Works, and the deputy economist of the Don Fang Boiler Works.

Drawn by the reputation of Queens College in the fields of economics and accounting, the Ministry has established a long-term relationship with the campus, taking part in three seminars since 1992 (a staggering Chinese economy caused a hiatus in 1994). Each seminar is tailored to the participantsU specific needs, and, like all Continuing Education programs, is financially self-supporting. The most recent one lasted four weeks and encompassed 45 hours of lectures and discussion on topics such as American and international investments, industrial organization, and the financial aspects of American business.

Several visits were made to pertinent organizations in New York City-the Federal Reserve Bank, Con Edison, the New York Stock Exchange, and Wang Associates. At each site there was an introductory tour, lecture, and discussion period.

Abraham Simon, chair of the Queens Accounting Department, taught all areas of finance, including the banking system and the stock and money markets. In October, the faculty also included two off- campus consultants: Dr. Stephen Martello, a trade negotiator for both Presidents Bush and Clinton, discussed local and international trade, and Dr. Andrea Charman, who has taught in China and Japan, focused on U.S. business systems and organization. All classes were taught in English and translated simultaneously into Chinese by two interpreters.

Since more than 23% of Queens students are Asian, many of them natives of China, and because a number of the executives were affiliated with universities at home, they felt very comfortable on campus. A lively party I hosted in my home gave participants another opportunity to learn about American family life, housing, and entertainment. At a graduation luncheon, each seminar member received an American textbook on some aspect of business, translated into Chinese.

The Continuing Education faculty and staff always find these seminars productive and enjoyable. The Ministry of Machine Industry apparently agrees, for negotiations are under way for additional seminars in 1996.