Stirring Up Alliances

The Student Activities Fair is a much anticipated event on Fudan University’s campus where students are given the opportunity to showcase their talents and efforts so as to recruit new members into their clubs. Some of the clubs being showcased were service-based while others were just for fun and still others were affiliated with sports teams. Chinese students were enthusiastic and welcoming, especially the ones who spoke English well or could find a representative to explain their club’s purpose and goals to the wide-eyed American students on the hunt for some new local friends. Each club had a group of students standing in front of its booth holding posters and dressed up to attract attention and potentially new members to help achieve its goals for the 2012-2013 school year. Some of the clubs I came across were the Global Awareness Club, the Theatre Club, the Technology and Education Connecting Cultures Club and the Association of Philharmonic along with the ever popular Coffee and Cocktail Society, which is particularly emblematic.

The representative for the Coffee and Cocktail Society was dressed in a tuxedo and invited me over to chat with him and to take a look at the booth he and his friends had set up. I could see that this group was not created to incite debauchery; instead, it was created to teach Chinese students an American outlet for establishing “guanqi,” or personal connections, which is a traditional Chinese idea. As Lyn Jeffery describes in her article “Placing Practices: Transnational Network Marketing in Mainland China,” marketing has changed the way many social interactions occur among Chinese people and between Chinese and Western peoples. Chinese are now more aware of Western practices and many times try to appeal to Western ideals of typical social situations in order to properly establish guanqi, even if that means learning how to drink coffee and make cocktails.