The University of Iowa

Student group focuses on US-China relations

May 11th, 2011

By Emily Hoerner, The Daily Iowan

As relations between the United States and China become more important in the economic world, experts say networking early could be an asset for business students.

And one University of Iowa organization, the Greater China Business Association, aims to do just that by connecting international students from China and domestic students.

The 15-member group is split between American students and Chinese students, according to the group’s president, Kurt Kamin. The UI has more than 1,300 Chinese students on campus.

“To be honest, the way things are going, China is just becoming a huge player in world markets,” said UI senior Kamin.

Political-science Professor Wenfang Tang said the business relationship between the United States and China has been growing because the two countries have the largest economies in the world.

“The two economies complement each other very well. The United States has the technology and the capital. China has the labor and manufacturing capacity,” he said. “In the past two to three decades, the two economies have grown together more and more closely.”

And although Tang said the political relationship between the two countries hasn’t always been smooth — specifically regarding human rights — an increasing number of students have traveled between the two countries.

Kamin said the group gives advantages to those looking for jobs and internships by using existing contacts. Group leaders are working on bringing in speakers and networking with UI alumni in China.

UI interim Provost P. Barry Butler said the group’s focus on networking is important because of the large number of alumni in China.

There are 152 UI alumni living in China, according to the UI Alumni Office.

Butler said large numbers of Chinese students didn’t start coming to the UI until the 1980s, and undergraduates have started coming in increasing numbers in the last five years.

“The main reason is the economy is growing and improving, and that allows people to study abroad,” Butler said.

The Greater China Business Organization also tries to educate students about Chinese culture — ranging from traditional customs to business etiquette, Kamin said.

“If they’ve met some students from China, social activities will help them a lot,” Butler said.

He said because the group resides on the UI campus, it will be easier for students to get a feel for the culture.

Next semester, the organization plans to put together two business trips to Chicago and Des Moines. The two markets are ideal, Kamin said, because the number of businesses with ties to China.

Associate Provost Downing Thomas said staying in touch with international alumni isn’t always easy.

“It’s hard to do, but it’s an area that will be of increasing importance given the number of international students that we have,” he said.

The group’s former president, Lee Henley, will travel to China this summer. He said he plans to get in touch with some UI alumni while in the country.

“It’s very important when you have an emerging superpower to have small organizations like this all over the place to foster relationships between the two countries, so this can be a process of mutual understanding,” Henley said.