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Investing in Education

Chinese businesspeople tap Hawaii’s resources

Investing in Hawaii isn’t their No. 1 priority. And unlike some Asian government and business leaders, they recently haven’t created high-tech firms or purchased multimillion-dollar real estate in the Islands. What they hope to export from Hawaii, instead, is a wealth of business-related knowledge that they can integrate at home, China. “China is learning how to run in a capitalistic system,” says James Mak, economics professor at University of Hawaii at Manoa. “They have to learn accounting systems, legal systems and build all the rules in this game that they want to play.” That, combined with China’s recent appointment to the World Trade Organization, has sparked China’s interest in Hawaii as a training field for agriculture, technology, tourism and other industries.

Already some Hawaii-based groups act as coaches. The university and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism in December 1999 began hosting officials from Guangdong province. Under the partnership, 10 senior administrators spend one year in Hawaii, participating in internships and university classes. The program costs the Guangdong government about $300,000 annually and is in its second year. “Our job is to give them a perspective of how the American economic and political systems work,” says David McClain, dean for the university’s college of business administration.

In addition to classroom instruction, the Guangdong administrators visit and observe Hawaii’s high-tech and agriculture facilities. “What they’re mainly interested in is our government, and what it is doing to help businesses,” says Kimberly M. Fujiuchi, the university’s director for executive education.

The university soon may not be the only school with links to China. Guangdong Provincial Labor Bureau also expressed interest in Leeward Community College and Honolulu Community College.

The timing couldn’t be better. Exponential growth in Guangdong this year is anticipated, particularly in the tourism industry. Approximately 200 more hotels are scheduled to be built in the province, bringing the total number of properties to 800.

Hawaii consulting company PacMar Inc. last December formed an agreement with a Chinese firm to provide technical help and recruit investors from Hawaii, the Pacific, the U.S. mainland and Southeast Asia. Although PacMar couldn’t reveal the name of the Chinese company during press time, the partnership is “a cooperation to transfer U.S. and Hawaii knowledge in food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries,” says Puongpun Sananikone, Pac Mar president and chief executive officer. Sananikone last year participated in a China trade mission that touted Hawaii’s training and education opportunities. DBEDT hosted the 10-person delegation.

Hawaii-based Directions Training Corp., a provider of distance training courses, last December began distributing its E-Smart Learning Solutions program through Beijing New Concept Consulting Co. Ltd. The training addresses issues, such as business law, marketing, management, fundamentals of the World Trade Organization and other topics of interest to Chinese companies. “It’s a glorified correspondence course,” says James A. Hawkins, president and chief executive officer for Directions Inc. “We’ve designed specific training for executive, senior and middle managers.” Directions Inc. anticipates the distance-learning program will generate between $5 and $10 million in revenue over the next year, provided the company is able to meet projections, Hawkins says.

That optimism mirrors the budding relationship between Hawaii and China. “The name of the game is making connections and seeing what happens,” McClain says about upcoming projects at the university. “Culturally, we (Hawaii) are very comfortable for them, and that’s a plus.”

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