Monday, April 20, 2009

ChinaBizGov is Moving Forward

I hope my readers will forgive the recent dearth of posts. My final days in the US were consumed with getting ready for up to a year conducting research in China. I now write this post from my hotel room in Shanghai.

During the course of the next year or so, the purpose of ChinaBizGov will change somewhat. While I still hope to write some analytical articles, I will also blog a bit about my experiences conducting research here, the problems and difficulties I encounter, the learnings that I am able to share, and also my travel experiences in general.

My plan is to begin by visiting the Shanghai Auto Show this week where I look forward to finding all of China's automakers -- and a lot of foreign ones as well -- under one roof. I hope eventually to visit most of the major automakers (and some of the minor ones) in addition to some local and central government organizations that regulate and oversee the auto industry.

While I arrived here with some ideas and some lines of questioning, unlike a good political scientist, I did not bring with me a solid hypothesis. Other China scholars with whom I have consulted assure me that this is not unusual for one's first research trip to China. The important thing is to have an open mind and to listen. People will tell me what is important if I let them.

As comforting as that should sound, it is not my nature to embark on such a major undertaking without a detailed plan. Without question, I will have to draw upon the improvisational skills of the jazz musician I used to be (before I became a grad student again) if I am to emerge from China with a body of data sufficient to carry a dissertation.

While I have traveled to China numerous times before, and even lived here for a few years in the past, this is my first time to come to China as a visiting scholar. It will also be my first time to conduct interviews in Chinese, a language that continues to humble me on a daily basis.

I am thankful for those of you who have stuck with this blog so far, and I promise that its aim is still to deliver what its title promises: discussion about the relationship business and government in China. I am hopeful that the results of my research will be a better understanding of the role of China's government in economic development and industrial planning.

A few days before I left Los Angeles, a song by Hoobastank popped up on my MP3 player during a run. While you would be forgiven for not taking seriously the lyrics of any group who voluntarily refer to themselves as "Hoobastank", the words seemed appropriate for the task I was about to undertake.
I stand before, a road that will lead,
into the unknown. At least unknown to me.
I want to go, but I'm paralyzed with fear.
Fear of a choice, where the outcome isn't clear.

And I take, the first step of a million more.
And I'll make mistakes I've never made before.
But at least I'm moving forward, at least I'm moving forward.
At least I'm moving forward...