2002 Student-Faculty Fellows: St. Olaf College

Xanadu Revisited:
Transition with Chinese Characteristics

Mentor: Xun Zhang Pomponio, Economics/Asian Studies
Students: Julie Jessica Stiehl ’02; Matthew Warren Wright ’02


At a Shanghai carpet factory. Left to right: Julie Stiehl, Xun Pomponio, Matthew Wright.

Abstracts of Reflections and/or Research

With the carpet factory workers.

Xun Zhang Pomponio

This trip revealed several aspects of economic reform that now keenly interest me, first of all, the income gap. China’s rapid development has created large differences between the China’s newly rich and entrenched poor. How and when can China deal with the situation? Secondly, what happens to rural women when large numbers of the male population leave the community, short and long term child and elder care, schooling, local economics, labor, et cetera. Thirdly, how has rapid economic development affected China’s resource depletion, pollution, exploration, and regeneration?

I plan to develop a course on Asian economic development, which can provide a venue where students can study, discuss and debate these issues. Further study in Asian economic development in should shed light on development issues in other regions in the world.

Julie Jessica Stiehl

Before I left for China I was warned that it would be hard to find anything out about banking in China, however I didn’t expect it to be as challenging as it actually was. Despite a few setbacks, however, the research done on this trip was productive and discoveries were made. Through interviews I was able to meet many people of different educational backgrounds and experiences, and this has changed my perspective of China. I have gained a new appreciation of the struggles of everyday life, and I realize that I want to continue my study of Chinese language and culture. The experience this summer has cemented my desire to work with China in the future.

Research abstract: From our interviews with bank employees, I learned from first-hand sources how China’s banks had accumulated so much bad debt and also what the banks were doing to prevent further bad debt. I also learned what banks are doing in order to recover at least part of the loan back. Through this research few interesting discoveries were made that will be investigated further. Several of the classes I have this semester will help me develop a fuller understanding of banking theory and the background of China’s banks.

Matthew Warren Wright

It was the small things. Doing research in Shanghai on state-owned enterprises introduced me to the city where I now live and work (at least for the next year), but that kind of pedestrian analysis is expected and not very interesting. Like I said, it was the small things that had a real impact. They may seem inconsequential and are perhaps easily dismissed, but it is impossible to underestimate their impact. For me, some of the small things were the sweet, oily, distinctively Shanghainese food, the smell of rotting garbage occasionally encountered on the street, and the almost constant feeling of being watched. Maybe those aren’t so small, but their impact is likely much greater than expected.

Research abstract: China’s state-owned enterprises are in trouble and are in the process of being reformed. But what impact does the transformation have on those people who work in the state sector? Where do the workers go when their factory closes? What happens to a Communist Party functionary when the focus of her job undergoes a slow transition from ideological education to human resources? In every factory that closes and every one that stays open there are people whose lives are affected in profound ways. New work must be found and a new way of life adjusted to.

Fellows in Yangzhou.

Venues for Sharing

I have already given a brief presentation of our research to the Asian Studies department and also my economic department. My student Julie and I plan to give a presentation to Asian Conversation this fall-a campus beginning course in Asian Studies. We also plan to give a workshop to Asia Weeks-annual campus event-and join the annual ASIANetwork Conference, time permitting; Julie is graduating in January.