The story appears on

Page B2

July 19, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Another Nixon on a mission to China

MEMBERS of the American Chamber of Commerce gathered in the ballroom of the Portman-Ritz Carlton for breakfast on Friday to hear visiting Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke talk about US-China commercial relationships and opportunities for stateside companies in China's "green tech" market.

Elsewhere in Shanghai, the pace is ratcheting up on construction of the ambitious US pavilion for Expo with agreements signed and plans being rolled into reality.

In Pudong, a young American student by the name of Nixon is making all bases count in his MBA course at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS).

In all three locations the activity is entirely normal and proper but in Pudong can be found the decades-long link of how all this activity is now possible. But even there, like elsewhere, it is no longer a big deal.

Devon Nixon, aged 27, is the great nephew of Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th president of the United States, who, with his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, set the path for the normalization of Sino-US relations in a meeting in Beijing with China's late Chairman Mao Zedong in 1972, resulting in the Shanghai Communique which formed the basis of the countries' bilateral communications for many years.

Richard Nixon effectively opened the door 37 years ago for China's emergence onto the world stage and it stepped through with a vengeance. Now, in a global financial crisis, China this week reported strong quarterly GDP growth that Western economies, the United States included, can only look on with envy.

None of this is lost on the young business degree candidate who has been studying in Shanghai for 12 months but he wasn't born when his great uncle weaved his foreign policy magic around the world.

Devon's grandfather Donald Nixon was the former president's younger brother and Richard Nixon was his "Uncle Dick," a member of the family. But today Devon, like the Portman business mob and Expo pavilion supporters, are sowing the fields that his great uncle helped to plough.

An entrepreneur in his own right, having started two enviro-tech companies, one in Chile, Devon is paying his own way through the world renowned Shanghai-based business school by working on the side for a California-based electric bikes company and consulting for a venture capital firm in his pet sectors, energy and health care.

"The reason I chose to study in China is two-fold," Devon said this week.

"I know how to start companies but I want to learn how to grow them and make them successful. That was my major focus.

"But also, I wanted to get a flavor for China to know where it is going in the future. In my mind, it will be undoubtedly one of the world's top powers and making it a better place, hopefully hand-in-hand with the US," he said.

At CEIBS, he is building an understanding of the difference between Chinese and Western thinking. "The little nuances I have picked up from the program are invaluable and can never be learned from a book or studying anywhere else," he said.

"So I am learning the business mentality, the mindset of the Chinese businessmen, the culture, the language. And also learning to take a step back and ask 'what do you mean by this' to get to the core meaning of their thoughts."

A naturally confident and outgoing young man, he also has strong leadership potential which is in play already as president of the CEIBS student committee and as a founder of its energy environment club. He plans to stay in China after graduation in April next year, continuing his involvement in venture capital or starting another company.

"China is an entrepreneur's playground and there are literally endless opportunities if you have the drive, the motivation, and the ability to use the guanxi network," he said. "Immersing yourself in life here, having your senses hit from all sides and absorbing it, helps to connect the dots and know what's going on."

He is more effusive when talking about business opportunities in China's changing health care system, "green" technology development and retail spending growth than his famous blood relative connection to China.

But he is inspired by Richard Nixon's role in China's development.

"It's awesome to see the foresight he had of what China was going to bring to the world and that it needed to re-emerge," he said.

"Of the Chinese I speak to, especially in the over 40 age group, they love Uncle Dick, they appreciate what he did and many pass on their own stories of him that I didn't know about."

It was impossible as a child for him not to be touched by the family links to China.

"I was born into China. Ever since I can remember I was at Chinese consulate meetings representing the Nixon family with my parents, a little kid in a suit and tie meeting foreign dignitaries, whether they were ambassadors or consuls general," he recalled.

"People are always impressed with my chopstick skills but I've been using them for as long as I've been using forks."

So, it's kind of logical that he would gravitate in this direction.

"Everyone in the world in my lifetime will be doing business with China one way or another. That's why I'm here," he said.

There is little doubt that "Uncle Dick" would proudly tip his hat to the boy.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend