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Study tour explores capitalist side of China

  • A photo of Andrew Rosenberg '14 on the 2013 J-Term Capitalist China study tour.
    A photo of Andrew Rosenberg '14 on the 2013 J-Term Capitalist China study tour.
    Photo courtesy of Andrew Rosenberg ‘14.
March 04, 2013

After spotting the Western influences in Rome during the previous winter, Andrew Rosenberg ’14 craved unfamiliar territory. He found it in China over the 2013 J-Term.

Professor Jonathan Marshall gives a lesson in Taiwan during the 2013 J-Term Capitalist China study tour. Photos courtesy of Andrew Rosenberg ‘14.

The political science major from Racine, Wis., and 19 Carthage classmates saw a markedly different China from the vast mainland that most associate with the country. On the Capitalist China study tour, they spent 18 days in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Professors Stephen Udry and Jonathan Marshall, who conducted a similar tour in 2010, explained the lingering effects of colonialism in the areas. Japan ruled Taiwan for a half-century until its defeat in World War II returned control of the island to China, while Hong Kong spent more than 150 years as a British colony.

“Both of those places, because of their colonial past, have an independent identity that they try to maintain,” said Prof. Marshall, who chairs the Political Science Department.

He said the infrastructure and universal education system the Japanese put in place helped Taiwan emerge as a powerful exporter. Hong Kong transformed into a service economy centered on finance and shipping, while embracing forms of freedom that are troublesome to the People’s Republic of China.

The group also spent a day in Macau. Crowded casinos have turned the former Portuguese colony into what some call the “Las Vegas of the East.”

Students tapped into the topical knowledge of the faculty members, who both teach Asian Studies at Carthage. Prof. Udry, chair of the History Department, lived in Taiwan for several years and speaks fluent Mandarin. Though living in Japan helped him become most adept at Japanese, Prof. Marshall knows some of the Chinese dialect, too.

More China photos

“This made for an enjoyable experience because they were able to not only communicate with the locals for us on excursions, but also could cross-reference their immense knowledge of the Asian continent,” Andrew wrote in a presentation for an Honors Contract.

Though many locals spoke English, the tour challenged students in other ways. Foreign characters covered everything from restaurant menus to signs.

“It’s intimidating to be in a place where you cannot read the script,” Prof. Marshall said.

The class got an education that was as much cultural as it was academic. Students drank snake’s blood, ate new foods, and visited religious sites.

That was exactly the kind of out-of-his-element experience Andrew wanted. Watching a business owner pay a hefty price to a spiritual healer who vowed to chase off demons, he reminded himself those practices have been ingrained in the culture for perhaps thousands of years.

“That’s where she decided to spend her money. Maybe I would have repainted the shop,” Andrew said. “You can’t really change it. All you can do is try to understand it.”

He’s grateful for the chances to visit interesting destinations without being limited to tourist hotspots. A year ago, Andrew studied the backdrop for some of William Shakespeare’s famous plays in Rome.

“It’s like having a tour guide with you,” Andrew said. “It’s a really safe and fun way to travel and study.”

The two professors on the Capitalist China tour laid out scheduled lectures, while leaving room for spontaneous exploration and individual free time. Students wrote journal entries on their experiences.

Like Andrew, Tory Martinez ’14, an English and political science major from Farmington Hills, Mich., organized her thoughts in an Honors Contract presentation. Although her recap included plenty of text and photos, Tory acknowledged she couldn’t describe it adequately.

“It’s hard to put into words how much those un-photographed, you-had-to-be-there-moments meant to me as a person and as a student, mostly because those were the moments that reminded us that this wasn’t a dream,” she said. “It was real.”