Meet Sean Shadbolt – Photographer and Chinese Language Learner

We recently interviewed Sean Shadbolt, who has been learning Chinese Mandarin at Euroasia for a number of years. Sean is in Elaine Wu's Advanced Chinese Class on Wednesday evenings.

Euroasia: What do you do professionally?

Sean: I am a commercial photographer. I shoot a lot of different things but mostly centered around food and lifestyle photography. Its always changing and while it has huge ups and downs as far as work and income are concerned, its always interesting with the people I meet and the experiences I have.

E: Tell me how you first got involved in photography.

S: I first got involved in photography when I managed to talk my way into a temporary job as a photographer for the Wellington city council in 1983. After that I worked as a trainee photographic technician at the tourism and publicity department for two years and after that two years of study at Wellington Polytechnic. In 1991 I started my own business.

E: What do you do when you aren't taking photos/working?

S: When I’m not planning for or doing photography I am either studying Chinese or working on my own or my friends houses. I would like to spend more time travelling but recently have been unable to but hope to go back to China within the next year.

I usually just tell people I am a photographer and not much more, technical details of what it is exactly I do can be dull and complicated, Most people’s experience of photography is wedding photography which I engage in occasionally. My family still isn’t really sure what exactly it is I do.

Euroasia client and commercial photographer Sean Shadbolt talks to us about his life journey
Euroasia client and commercial photographer Sean Shadbolt talks to us about his life journey

E: What has surprised you most about learning Chinese?

S: The thing that has surprised me the most about learning Chinese is how many Chinese speakers there are now in New Zealand. I hadn’t really noticed too much before I started although through my work I was quite aware of Chinese culture here. I also have some close friends who are either Chinese or have Chinese heritage. I also taught a number of Chinese students when I was a photography tutor.

E: What's the best thing to happen since you started mixing with Chinese people/learning Chinese?

S: I think the best thing to happen to me since I started learning Chinese is a much wider appreciation of the culture and heritage, also having a window into Chinese perspectives on life and values.

I also enjoy learning Chinese because it is a language that is spoken everyday in New Zealand, unlike the European languages I studied many years before. You can go into any Chinese restaurant or shop and get a little bit of practice.

E: What would you tell someone who is thinking about learning Chinese?

S: I would advise anyone thinking of learning Chinese to be prepared to do a lot of extra study and practice, especially at first, as progress can be very incremental, also to consider doing the HSK exams, that can really give a goal to focus on.

E: What's it like to be learning Chinese at Euroasia?

S: I enjoy the classes at Euroasia because of the after hours times. It is difficult to fit in any study during the day so it fits in with my schedules. I don’t miss too many classes. The classes are also very social and I enjoy catching up with the other students every week and also in our trips to Chinese restaurants.

E: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?

S: If I wasn’t doing photography I would probably do some kind of teaching. I taught photography for a long time and also did a CELTA and language teaching course a while ago at Unitec which I thoroughly enjoyed.


Thanks Sean for sharing your thoughts.

For more details about Sean, check out Sean's website.

Share this:

Ken Applegate from Fisher Funds on doing business with the Chinese

At Euroasia, we have the privelege of meeting talented New Zealanders who do amazing things in their day jobs. For today’s blog entry, we have Ken Applegate, who has been learning Mandarin with us since early last year to share his views on the Chinese economy, why he’s investing there, and his experience in working with the Chinese.

Ken is the Senior Portfolio Manager for the Fisher Funds International Fund, a specialist New Zealand-based fund manager with assets under management of NZ$1billion spread across more than 30,000 clients. Thanks Ken for sharing your story with the Euroasia community.


As a global investor we have the ability to invest anywhere in the world and our allocation to Chinese companies has ranged from 20-40% of the fund. We have a long term structurally bullish view on the Chinese economy. This is not just our opinion; it is based on fact and history. China has been a global economic powerhouse more than once in history. Countries like the US and the UK have dominated the world economy once before and even Rome was ‘great’ once. Just a little more than 200 years ago China’s economy comprised approximately 1/3 of global GDP and it is on the rise again. To quote Warren Buffett, a legendary investor, “the 19th century belonged to England, the 20th century belonged to the U.S., and the 21st century belongs to China. Invest accordingly“. I firmly believe most people underestimate how important this shift is and the significance of its implications.

China dominated the world economy 200 years ago


I have worked as a global fund manager for more than 15 years with the majority of my experience gained while living in California. I first visited China in 2000, and I now travel to China 2-3 times per year. In addition, I speak with Chinese companies and local investors/analysts on a weekly basis and often meet with Chinese companies when I attend investment conferences throughout Asia, especially in Singapore and Hong Kong. I have described below two examples of investments made in China which highlight some of the many challenges I have encountered and learned from over the years.

I also believe in continued learning and my latest pursuit has been learning Mandarin. I began taking a weekly class at Euroasia language school in Auckland in early 2010. I have experienced first-hand the difference between speaking Chinese and thinking Chinese. While I have spent a good deal of the last 10 years trying to understand the Chinese way of doing business, I decided that learning the language could be another way to bridge the gap between cultures. Many Chinese attempt to learn English so out of respect why shouldn’t we attempt to learn the most widely spoken language in the world?

China’s future will be driven by urbanisation and the emerging middle class


It is critical to understand that while China is one country there are significant regional differences. One way to gain a holistic picture is to travel to a variety of locations throughout China. While Shanghai and Beijing are the financial and political centres, they comprise less than 5% of the Chinese population. The real future of China, in my opinion, lies in the emerging middle class so I have made an effort to travel to tier 2 and tier 3 cities. In addition to Guangzhou in the south, I have been as far west as Chongqing and Chengdu and as far north as Changchun. I like to visit similar locations every few years to see how things are developing. The reason for my travel is to visit company management at their headquarters. I have found they are much more open to a dialogue and it forms a lasting impression if a fund manager from New Zealand makes an effort to come and spend a day with them on their home turf.

This is the welcome I received from Cao Zhao Hui, the CEO of Wasion Group, when I visited them at their headquarters outside of Changsha in 2009


The first example is an investment that didn’t work out. One way we generate our investment ideas is through quantitative screening of financial metrics. We discovered a company called Dapai, China’s leading branded backpack and luggage company. I was attracted to the company because of its leadership position in its industry and cheap valuation. The valuation of the company was low because the company had made some decisions that did not fit the mold of a ‘typical’ high quality publicly traded company.

After significant research on the company and numerous conference calls with company management I believed that this was an investment worth pursuing. We are strong believers in quality management so I travelled to Quanzhou, Fujian Province, to spend a day with the CEO and Chairman at their facility. I also conducted research by interviewing customers at shopping malls (including the competition) to gauge the perception of the company and brand.

As mentioned previously the cheap valuation was due to subpar decisions the company had made in regards to how the stock and company was perceived. I believed these decisions were made in naivety. During my meeting with the CEO I highlighted how to change their perception which could lead to significant wealth creation. I offered my assistance and facilitated a conversation with a public relations firm and numerous specialised brokers and made myself available for discussion on any decision-making if required. They responded positively and we celebrated a fruitful day and good relationship over dinner.

I had continued conference calls with management and while the company did make some positive steps forward they were only baby steps. Unfortunately the key decisions continued to be poor in spite of my advice. This was frustrating as there was no logical rationale for the decisions. The decisions were actually made for reasons other than purely financial reasons, which meant sacrificing

their own business in the short term to maintain relationships with distributors. I understand this is important, but it was still

frustrating as management had committed to change. While I do understand how Chinese think, I am ultimately a westerner, especially when it comes to business, and our way of decision-making does not always prevail.

Touring the Dapai factory with the CEO, Chen “Perry” Yong


The second example involves a more positive outcome. The company is China Automation Group, a leading company in safety equipment for the petrochemical and rail equipment industries. It is similar in structure to the first example where my research and relationship was developed over a 6-month period. The major difference in this example is that I already had relationships with a number of players in the rail equipment industry. This added depth and meaning to my relationship with this company.

We first invested capital in China Automation Group in mid 2008 and while business for the company continued to be positive, the stock took a dive in 2008. This was frustrating for the company and for me. I remember meeting with Xuan Ruiguo, the Chairman of China Automation Group, in Hong Kong in October 2008 when the stock price was HK0.60/share.

To put this into context we bought our first shares at HK$2/share. The good news is that now the shares are trading at more than Hk$6/share. We showed our confidence and belief in the company by buying more shares and it was this day that defined our relationship. I had breakfast with the Chairman in March this year and he recalled my support during that challenging time and said that he always has time for me.


I have always believed in a long term approach to investing and this is a mindset that is critical when it comes to doing business in China. The best lessons I have learned have not come from reading books but from my own experiences on the ground. This will continue to be the focus for me in the future. We shouldn’t overestimate the ability to change others’ mindsets and this is not a sustainable outcome anyway. We need to adapt if we are to conduct business in their country, and both parties in a relationship must be satisfied. This requires a long term approach – it’s not just about trying to make a short term profit.

The best piece of advice I give people who want to try and understand China is to go there. I tell them to spend some time in one of the big cities and then travel inland to a smaller city. I have offered numerous times to provide assistance to those interested in an attempt to make the process seem less daunting. Seeing is believing. It takes time to develop an understanding and time to create relationships. Confucius said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”…and the long term rewards can be unlimited.

Posted via email from Euroasia

Share this:

UK govt says schools should teach Mandarin to all teenagers

Every teenager should have the chance to learn Mandarin due to the growing importance of China in world events, according to the UK government. One in seven secondary schools, which teach pupils aged 11-16, currently offer Mandarin and Schools Secretary Ed Balls said he wanted to extend this through language partnerships between schools.

From the BBC website this week:

All secondary school pupils in England should have the chance to learn a less familiar language such as Mandarin, says Children’s Secretary Ed Balls.

Mandarin has become increasingly popular in schools – with one in seven now teaching the subject.

Making it more widely available is an cialis order “aspiration” rather than a pledge – and could mean schools and colleges sharing specialist language

teaching staff.

Mr Balls highlighted the economic importance of learning languages.

As well as Mandarin, he pointed to the growing importance of Portuguese for trading with Brazil, Spanish in Argentina and Bahasa Indonesia in Indonesia.

Emerging economies

“A growing number of schools are now teaching Mandarin and in the coming years I think we will see this subject sitting alongside French, Spanish and German as one of the most popular languages for young people to learn,” said Mr Balls.

“In this new decade our ties with emerging economies like China will become even more important and it’s vital that young people are equipped with the skills which they need, and British businesses need too, in order to succeed in a rapidly-changing world,” he said.

So what is the New Zealand government’s stance?

Share this:

Forum brings together Chinese and NZ businesspeople

Flat out at the moment

putting this forum together. Counting down to next Monday. A few tickets left if you're keen to come check this out.

The International Sustainable Cities Forum to be held on 30 March brings together government and business leaders from both China and New Zealand, in conjunction with the first anniversary of the signing of the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.

The organisers have managed to secure the attendance of approximately 50 senior business and government leaders from China to attend this Forum. Amongst those attending is Wang Shi, the Godfather of Chinese real estate, Chairman of Vanke, with market capitalisation over US$10b, the largest property developer in China. Wang Shi is al

so the he oldest person in the world to complete the 7+2 (scaling the highest peaks on seven continents and to trek to the two poles). Many of the delegates are members of the China Urban Realty Association (CURA), and are well-known entrepreneurs and investors. Government delegations from Chang Xing County in Zhejiang Province and Wu Jin District in Jiangsu Province will also attend.

The Chinese participants are keen to look at partnership possibilities in New Zealand. They also want to better understand New Zealand’s capabilities in the area of sustainable development, especially given the significant challenges faced in China.

Continued >

Share this:

Working with China – key tips

I came across a good story in the Summer issue of Bright, the NZTE magazine that goes out to people interested in international business.

Key stories in this issue include coping with the international credit crisis; insights on trading in the Middle East; tips on perfecting your sales pitch; the world's growing bioeconomy; interviews with two members of NZTE’s China Advisory Board; carbon-labeling of exports; staying sharp in the adventure tourism market.

I want to highlight some salient points from the  interviews with the 2 members of NZTE’s China Advisory Board, who have in-depth China market knowledge and have lived and worked in China for a long period.

chinaIf you have some time, do read the article. The 2 guys interviewed are:

David Mahon, Chair of NZTE’s China Advisory Board.

  • Worked in Beijing for 25 years, heading a private  equity firm Mahon ChinaInvestment Management Limited.
  • He says change in China has been so great though that he says it’s largely his last two years’ of experience that are relevant to clients.

Andrew Browne, partner in a corporate communications advisory company, Beijing Brunswick Consultancy Ltd.

  • Advises clients on business development acquisition and listing strategies.
  • Previously worked for Reuters for 20 years and in 2007 won a Pulitzer Prize.
  • Grew up in Hong Kong.

Some quotes from Mahon:

  • “If you’re looking around the world and trying to see sources of global growth, China is one of the bright spots”
  • “Brand New Zealand is strong but we lack unity. There are all these meat producers and wine producers selling fragments. We need to approach in a unified way – then Brand New Zealand can be protected.”
  • “Language is important”. “I learned five words a day – no one can afford not to learn five words a day.”
  • “Too often you see companies with a product in China and it doesn’t do well. China demands products unique to Ch

    ina. For example, media is very culturally sensitive.”

Quotes from Browne:

  • “What is it that China

    needs? They need brand, technology, marketing and sales channels. You’ll see a very serious shopping expedition going out in search of all those things.”

  • “It’s a truism that China is a complicated country”
  • “We each have a vision which is only a tiny slice of the whole. For all New Zealand companies, it’s critical that they meet as many people as they can and get as broad a view as possible. The secret of doing well is asking the right questions.
  • The economy has been far too focused on exports and heavy industry. The low-end sweat-shops
    along the coast have resulted in excessive use of raw material and energy. In that sense, the old
    model has run its course and was looking unsustainable before the credit crisis hit.
  • “Would you advise a top Chinese company manager coming down to New Zealand to learn a little English? The notion you can send a senior manager to China without language is ridiculous. China is changing so quickly. Language gives you a feeling of engagement and
    learning about the market.”
  • “If you’re an architect, there is nowhere in the world doing building like China,”
  • “Take parks. China needs parks; in the West, all the parks are there. Companies in the West that have long become dormant have sprung back into life in China. China is not something
    to fear at all. China is creating vast opportunities across the manufacturing and service sectors.
  • “If you’re a banker, China is your big opportunity. I’ve watched the private equity funds
    of the world trooping through the lobby of CICC China Investment Corporation with their hats off.”

Also want to highlight an opportunity for Kiwi businesspeople to connect with Chinese investors and businesspeople at an upcoming event on 30 March 2009 – known as the International Sustainable Cities Forum. A delegation of high-level business and government leaders will be in New Zealand for 4 days to explore partnership opportunities.

It's the perfect opportunity for those wanting to do business with the Chinese to attend.

Share this:

Lost in translation 2

Upon closer examination, Christchurch turned out to be

Following my previous post on the importance of getting translations done right, I have included some photos to further illustrate my point. I was in Shanghai last year, and at a glance saw someone wearing a t-shirt that said “Christchurch” on the back. Perhaps an ex-international student, I thought.

Upon closer examination, I cracked up in laughter.

Chinese police car
Chinese police car

And then there was this police car I saw outside a McDonald's restaurant. For a moment there, I wasn't sure if they are for real, but I can assure you they are driven by real cops. My mum could have done a better job with the spray paint. Why can't they get something so basic checked? All they needed to do was to open up a word doc and see if there's a red unde


police warning
police warning

It's endless. I came across another sign at a restaurant (with English menus, not a roadside stall).

In verbatim, the text reads:

The police warned Please use the “Auti-Theft Hook” under the table. Take care of your belongings. Shanghai railway station rigilance police station.

My wife (fiancee at the time) asked what sort of system this

is. I was also wondering what kind of sophisticated anti-theft system they installed under the table. My curiosity paid off. I didn't have to look long to discover this most effective albeit primitive theft-prevention device.

Chinese anti theft system
Chinese anti theft system

OK in the same way that we laugh at the Chinese who make all these “stupid mistakes”, they do the same with Westerners with silly tattoos and t-shirts. The difference is that the Chinese are just simply too polite to tell you 🙂

Share this:

Lost in translation

It's fashionable these days for Westerners to wear t-shirts with Chinese calligraphy or have tattoos with Chinese words. I reckon 9 times out of 10, people have no idea what the Chinese phrase means.


I found this one, where a boyfriend proudly displays what he calls “My girl's “Bitch” tattoo”. He posted this on a website, not knowing that it actually means prostitute.

Before and after ... the cover the the Max Planck Research magazine wa

<div style=buy viagra online sefely

s replaced after it was discovered that the original cover (left) was an ad for a strip joint.” width=”470″ height=”313″ align=”center” />

Before and after ... the cover the the Max Planck Research magazine was replaced after it was discovered that the original cover (left) was an ad for a strip joint.

This one is really funny. One of Europe's most prestigious scientific research institutes has had to issue an apology after discovering that the calligraphy used on the cover of its flagship magazine to illustrate a special China edition was

in fact an ad for a Hong Kong strip joint.

The institute hastily replaced the cover – which advertises “hot, young housewives” – from the online and English edition of the publication, Max Planck Research, but not before the German language version of the periodical had been dispatched to subscribers.

Why is it so hard to get people to understand the importance of getting translations done properly, and checked by experts?

Share this: