School of Global Commerce& Management Dean, Student Study Faith and Business in China
Kyle Usrey, dean of the Whitworth School of Global Commerce & Management, and John Rush, a Whitworth Master of International Management student, recently traveled to China, where they submerged themselves in Chinese culture and studied the interplay of faith and business.
The four-week trip in June covered a broad expanse of China, from the largest city in China, Chonqing, to a city near North Korea, Dalian, and up the coast from Hong Kong to Beijing and Tianjin.
"The 21st century has been called the century of China because of what has happened with China in the latter part of the 20 th century, and because of China’s historic role over several millennia and its influence around the globe," Usrey says. "China has an incredibly long-lasting society that has done some amazing things in terms of economic growth in the last 25 years."
Usrey lived in China for two years and has since returned to teach and conduct seminars. This trip was Rush's first encounter with China. During their trip both Usrey and Rush were affected dramatically by Chinese culture.
"We experienced culture shock shortly after arriving," Usrey says. "No matter how many times I go to China, I always get culture shock."
Rush, who graduated from Whitworth in May with a bachelor's degree in economics, says that his experience in China changed his perspective of the country's societal structure and some of the "myths" and stereotypes he once held about China.
For example, Rush said he had always heard the country referred to as "Red" or Communist China, but when he visited, he discovered that the economy was more like that of a capitalist country.
"I was surprised," Rush says. "The government rules under the name 'Communist China,' but the way people conduct business is not Communist. I saw how neglected the poor and the least powerful groups are in many ways, and I think that's not how traditional or true Communists would envision taking care of their society."
During the trip Rush and Usrey toured a wide variety of companies, including technology manufacturers and a Tiffany-style lamp company. The visited New Creations, a company that manufactures plates, refrigerator magnets, and other odds and ends, and uses its profits to fund an English-language school for Chinese students and an orphanage that provides treatment for children with severe medical conditions.
Other businesses in China have become "de facto" churches, according to Usrey. The business owners, who are Christians from China, Japan, Taiwan, Canada and the United States, are held accountable both ethically and spiritually at the executive levels. Some businesses recruit poor and disabled people who are on the margins of society, and then teach them to work in the company and teach them also about the Christian faith.
"They are legitimate businesses, but the people at the top are Christians, and they want their businesses to reflect how God’s kingdom is breaking into today’s age," Usrey says. "They empower their employees to go into the world as God leads them, to be leaders in their fields and in their spheres of influence."
During their trip Usrey taught M.B.A. classes for students and business executives at Chongqing University and the Dalian University of Technology, while Rush attended several businesses classes taught by American professors at Chonqing University; he also studied Chinese with a tutor.
"Learning the Chinese language was a very interesting experience for me; I’ve never felt more lost in any situation," Rush says. "When the teacher asked me in Chinese to do something for him, I was completely lost. I couldn’t act like I knew what I was doing because I had absolutely no clue what was going on. I think it helped me identify with the experience of foreign students who study in the United States."
International studies are an integral component of the School of Global Commerce & Management, according to Usrey.
"It’s important for Whitworth students to travel to China because international study takes students out of their comfort zones," Usrey says. "They see the cultural conflicts and the collisions that are occurring in other countries, they see how religion and business are intersecting in cutting-edge ways, and they realize that there’s a place on this planet that’s as different from the United States as there could possibly be."
After graduating from the MIM program, Rush plans to pursue a career in economic development.
"As a Christian, I want work in the business sector and provide opportunities for others to become Christian business people," Rush says. "My experience in China, of seeing how Christians can be effective business people, will be very helpful to me as I reach out to individuals and provide them with a model that shows how they can successfully combine faith and business."