RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – When Grace Ueng awakened from a lengthy coma following a bicycling accident, she was startled to hear that why unconscious she had often spoken in Mandarin Chinese.
More than a year later, Ueng, a daughter of native Chinese who moved to the United States, continues to return to her Chinese roots, using the family name of Whi-Tze as part of her full name.
Ueng is not alone in seeking a better understanding of the land that was home to her parents and still is to many other families. While returning there to visit, she also is seeking to develop business ties for her company, Cary-based Savvy Marketing Group. And many members of the rapidly growing North Carolina Chinese Business Association are doing the same.
“It’s like connecting the dots,” Ueng said on Wednesday as members of the NCCBA gathered to hear venture capitalist Garheng Kong of Intersouth Partners talk about his own experiences growing up as the son of Chinese Americans.
The NCCBA includes sons and daughters of Chinese who moved to America as well as native Chinese whose business and educational careers have brought them to America. They mix culture, family and business in attempts to capitalize on the booming Chinese economy while at the same time building "bridges" – a point of emphasis for the local group – between two countries governed in extremely different ways.
Not all members are Chinese, either. For example, the Hutchison law firm sponsored Wednesday’s lunch. And Michael Murphy, chief executive officer of pharmacogenomics firm Gentris, was on hand as he begins exploring ways of expanding his business to the land of the Great Wall.
“There is lots of interest in China,” said Frank Wang, president of BioMedomics and chairman of the NCCBA. In some three years, the group has attracted more than 100 members and puts on regular events to foster trade and cultural exchanges.
Giles Shih, who works with his Chinese-born father BioResource International, noted that the group recently played host to a business delegation from China along with the North Carolina Chinese Center. The NCCBA is so busy, in fact, that Shih noted with a smile, “Everyone wears a lot of hats.”
The American influence on the NCCBA members was clear to see. While Kong spoke about his California childhood, education, and the ins-and-outs of venture capital, one NCCBA member watched while wearing a Nike baseball cap. And the lunch included sweat tea, a North Carolina staple.
Interestingly, the NCCBA also includes members from Taiwan. The island nation is considered a breakaway state by the Beijing regime, but businesses between the two is actually quite extensive. And Shih noted, “We try not to be political.”
The NCCBA has big plans to further develop its bridge theme. It is organizing a delegation for a trip to China later this year. And a future speaker is to discuss “The Art of War” – the Chinese military strategy classic – and winning in business.
Providing even more exposure for the Chinese business connection is the building of Lenovo’s world headquarters in Morrisville. The computer giant was born in China just about the same time as IBM launched its personal computers, and in 2005 Lenovo bought IBM’s PC division.
As the NCCBA grows and Chinese-U.S. business accelerates as exemplified by the Lenovo connection, Shih said that he expected more “bridges” to be built.
“The world,” he said, “is getting smaller all the time.”