China Trek 4 | Shenzhen – part 1

From 20-26 April 2024, 23 participants from Cambridge Judge Business School’s EMBA 2022 cohort embarked on a week-long Trek through China. The aim of the Trek was to explore business opportunities, promote cultural exchanges and identify educational collaborations. The journey combined innovation, tradition, business, and cross-cultural engagement, offering unique experiences and unforgettable moments.

Jesús Ortiz (EMBA 2022) writes about days 4 and 5 of the Trek.

Day 4 | Unveiling Shenzhen’s innovation powerhouses: a journey through tech, education and tradition

The view of Shenzhen from our hotel rooms

Welcome to the vibrant cityscape of Shenzhen, where innovation thrives, and tradition meets technology in a mesmerising fusion of past and future. Once a humble fishing town, Shenzhen has transformed into a manufacturing powerhouse and now stands as the innovation hub of China. Our adventure begins with a steamy yet clear and warm morning as the Trek team, caffeinated and eager, boards the 8:50am bus headed towards Tencent amidst a flurry of electric cars, bicycles, and scooters – a testament to Shenzhen’s commitment to clean transportation.

Tencent: a glimpse into the future of tech

Upon our arrival at the towering headquarters of Tencent, we were warmly greeted by executives at the front door. Tencent, renowned for its flagship product, the super-app “WeChat”, which integrates social media, payments, and add-ons into its messaging platform, also excels in mobile games, cloud, and fintech services. During our visit, we discussed their cutting-edge research in artificial intelligence and their vision for “tech for good,” including remote mining technology that allows workers to operate equipment from home, thus avoiding the dangers of the industry.

The CJBS cohort outside Tencent head office

Following a stimulating morning, we had some free time to explore a local shopping mall which, with its familiar shops and atmosphere, could easily be mistaken for one in London. After lunch, we recharged with coffee and tea before continuing our exploration.

Peking University HSBC Business School: nurturing minds, igniting innovation

Our next stop was the Peking HSBC Business School, where we were received by our former dean, Professor Christoph Loch, now teaching here. Alongside Professor Young Joon Park, Associate Dean, and the enlightening Professor Kun Zhang, we delved into discussions on innovation and entrepreneurship. Their insights highlighted that true innovation is not just about novelty but about excelling amidst a sea of predecessors. Additionally, our fellow student Abby Hallowes shared her expert insights from the research publishing world, enriching our understanding of the global impact of academic work. This invigorating session was enhanced by the entrepreneurial spirit of the students and staff we met, all open-minded and well-travelled, eager to exchange ideas and share insights about their lives in Shenzhen.

The lecture theatre at Peking University HSBC Business School – Anyu Gao wrapping up the session

Alumni dinner at Rhino: a feast for the senses

The day concluded with a delightful dinner at Rhino restaurant, organised by the Cambridge and Oxford Alumni organisation. In the warm glow of camaraderie, we savoured a sumptuous banquet of traditional Cantonese food with a modern twist. The evening was filled with the exchange of stories and potential collaborations with local alumni. Highlighting the night, we were treated to a live demonstration of a new product aimed at the UK market by one of the alumni and entrepreneurs.

Reflecting on the day’s experiences, from the technological marvels at Tencent to the academic insights at PHBS and the cultural exchange at Rhino, it is clear that Shenzhen is a city where the past and future not only coexist but flourish together.

Night-time view of Shenzhen from our hotel room

Day 5 | A technological odyssey: exploring innovation at Insta360, ZTE and beyond

On day 5, our trek took us into the heart of the city’s tech scene, exploring companies that are reshaping the global landscape of photography, communications, and electric car charging.

Insta360: innovating visual narratives

Our day began at Insta360, a beacon of innovation in the photography and video industry. Insta360 is celebrated for its pioneering contributions to 360-degree camera technology, positioning itself prominently in a fiercely competitive arena, where it contends with established giants like GoPro and DJI. Stepping into their offices, we were immediately enveloped by an electrifying atmosphere, evoking the innovative spirit found in the headquarters of tech titans such as Google.

We explored an array of their products, from sleek, compact video cameras, selfie stick stabilisers, to specialised webcams designed for e-commerce live streamers — a phenomenon still on the cusp of breaking into the Western scene. Among their offerings, the flagship action cameras stood out the most. These devices, designed to capture all-encompassing 360-degree videos, offered us a captivating glimpse into the future of immersive storytelling and, in the future, virtual reality experiences.

ZTE: mastering global communications

Next, we made our way to ZTE, greeted by our classmate and ZTE innovator, James Zhang. ZTE, a leader in the expansion and development of 5G technology, impresses with its extensive portfolio that stretches from high-speed wireless connectivity to sophisticated smartphone technologies.

During our visit, we learned that ZTE reinvests over 30% of its revenue back into research and development. This commitment is a testament to its dedication to innovation and its pivotal role in advancing global communication technologies. We also toured the ZTE museum, which chronicles the company’s journey from a regional telecom provider to a global tech titan. The visit culminated in a moving display of traditional Chinese calligraphy and then presentation by the Chief Strategy Officer, symbolising the harmonious blend of tradition and innovation that ZTE embodies.

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