ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

It has become a matter-of-course to see school children all over the world drink Coca-Cola.
�Nobody is surprised to see that anymore. Even in China,� explained a student from a group from Beijing University in its presentation Saturday on �Labor Issues. Created by Multinational Companies� at the Global21 Conference in Istanbul. In a world of global corporations, global markets and media corporations, people all over the world tend to eat the same, wear the same clothes, listen to the same music and access the same Internet sites. But do we really think alike? Do we share the same values, the same needs and do we perceive global developments with the same eyes?
�If you want to do business in China, we believe it is important to know something about the context,� a student from Beijing University explained. The group spoke about the many obstacles � language, communication, different styles of management and thinking as well as the discrepancy in laws and policies � that are easily overlooked in a world where one can order the same kind of hamburger or café latte almost anywhere in look-alike stores.
Since 1978, 37,871 multinational companies have entered the Chinese market; until 2007, foreign direct investment, or FDI, increased by 73 percent, according to the team from Beijing University. However, there are major problems and misunderstandings between Westerners and their Chinese partners or work force. Westerners speak more directly, the Chinese students said. They also pointed out that Westerners were more likely to challenge authority. According to the Beijing team, Asians tend to be very modest and avoid talking about themselves. In China we have a saying: a nail that sticks out most gets hammered down, according to the group. How does that go along with American culture which promotes individualism and individual success?
Emphasizing a local perspective instead of solely looking at the global revenue, the group from China identified a positive trend in their country based on a case study they conducted at Microsoft Research China. The study showed that about one-third of the senior staff is Chinese. The U.S. corporation also maintains close relations with local universities and students. They understand that localization is extremely important, the Beijing team said. They are getting more interested in our knowledge.
A student from Jerusalem's Hebrew University explained how global issues affect local lives by sharing a recent experience with his audience. On a bus in his home town he was passing by the new city landmark: A huge bridge which stands as a secular symbol within an otherwise highly religious city. A woman next to him exclaimed, �Why are we spending all that money?� � �For the world,� the Israeli student tried to explain. � But the woman's perspective was different. �The hell with the world. I don't live in the world!� The anecdote made everybody at the Global21 conference laugh � and think. The Jerusalem team identified the woman's reaction as right and wrong at the same time. The example showed how absurd it has become to think we can ignore the impact of global changes on our daily lives.
Before the 27 participating students return to their countries and everyday life on campus this week, they will discuss the demands of global citizenry and the prospects of globalization. They might also have gained new ideas about where their personal career paths will lead them. Some students were visibly shocked when they learned from their second key note speaker Marco Annunziata that they should �stay away from finance.� �That does not mean that there are no opportunities,� the chief economist at the Italian Unicredit Bank said and advised aspiring bankers to observe the market and specific trends carefully. �Just don't look at it as a goldmine.�
Conceptually speaking, the goldmine of the first Annual Students Conference Global21 was that its participants were able to develop their thoughts freely and challenge the older generation's policies before they enter the job market. It was Nayan Chanda from the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization who reminded the young audience that decisions are not only made by big bosses but also by big crowds. The IT revolution, which Chanda compared to the French Revolution, has enabled people around the globe to act together. �Corporations are increasingly looking out for their image,� Chanda said. �Take just one example. Banks want to appear as good corporate citizens. Therefore some already employ environment advisors.� These are new trends prompted by youth activism, according to Chanda. �Protests and campaigns put corporations under pressure.� It is probably one of the most important lessons the students will be taking home from this gathering. As consumers, voters and volunteer workers everybody has a share in global developments.