Position: Managing Director
Industry: Commerce, consulting, international mergers and acquisitions
Employer: Blue Water Growth
Education: Duquesne University, University of Pittsburgh
Current city: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Time in China: 1988-present; lived there for five years 1996-2001 and often going there to travel
Drinking games and talent competitions
“One time in China, I was at a business dinner banquet and we each drank around 30oz. of baijiu, making everyone else at the table pass out except me. From that night I made some close, caring friends, and at the same time have never since then had someone dare to me to a drinking challenge against them, or provoke me into getting drunk and making a fool of myself.” Upon recollecting this memory, David Iwinski revealed a proud smile and eyes twinkling with the brilliance of victory. He continued, saying, “Actually, Chinese people are very curious. I’m always able to sense their sincere curiosity with me — which indeed is often a desire to see me lose my manners after drinking. Unfortunately for them, I’m a big guy and I have quite a tolerance for alcohol, so there’s no way to force me into a desperate situation, for then I would more than rise to the occasion. On the other hand, however, the ability of the Chinese to hold their liquor is quite strong. If not for being forced to drink to death, it would be better to drink much less, as it’s harmful to the body.
“Apart from its alcohol culture, I think there’s still a lot more implied when one thinks of China. These ideas already seem to be flowing among the young and the old of China. Let me tell two stories. The first happened during the five years when I was living and working in China from 1996–2001. Due to my work at that time being closely related to factory management, within a consecutive 18-month period, many Chinese teammates and I worked together to improve factory management and upgrade the manufacturing quality and efficiency. Based on the results, our teamwork was very successful. A successful team is always brimming with positive energy; everybody’s relationships with one another also become more intimate. But I always felt there was much I didn’t understand about my coworkers; on some level we seemed to lack mutual comprehension.
“Consequently, as a foreigner in China, to satisfy my curiosity, and at the same time to deepen the mutual understanding between my colleagues and myself, I launched a talent competition, a bit like China’s Got Talent but with more diversity. In the end, there were some who read poetry, some who played instruments, some who sang songs, some who painted, some who wrote calligraphy — overall the spectacle was very light-spirited and vivid. I was astonished at my co-workers’ talents, while at the same time I sighed in relief at the colorful and brilliant humanity on display.
“Through that talent competition, I was able to better understand my coworkers, and became all the more fond of the Chinese people. Moreover, from that time on, we would hold this event every year, and the best piece created in the contest would always be taken back by me to the US to display in our Pittsburgh headquarters. This also tremendously increased my colleagues’ sense of pride, and caused me always to be reminded that I have to stay inquisitive and respectful, especially of strangers, because they can be extremely lovable.”
The little girls in Ningbo
“The second story happened relatively recently, in 2013. At that that I was in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, where I missed a train and was informed that the next one wouldn’t be for another three hours. My journey had wearied me and I was quite exhausted. There were a lot of people in the train station and very few seats, many of which were very hard and uncomfortable. I immediately thought of how far away I was from my warm and cozy home in America, my wife and kids, and my three dogs. Moreover, the weather was unpleasant and rainy, and I felt that these three hours might be some of the gloomiest three hours in my life.
“But right at that moment, I heard two cute little noises saying ‘So pleased to meet you!’ I turned around, discovering that it was two little 5–6 year old girls. Seeing how innocent and unperturbed they looked, my feelings immediately improved. Although their parents were afraid their kids were disturbing me and that I wasn’t happy to have two kids continuing to talk to me, I really cheered up and and chatted with them. During this time, the children sang songs, danced, talked about their studies, and told stories about their friends and family members. Without realizing it, three hours passed by. Afterwards, we had to board separate trains and proceed to different destinations. But when we took a group photo and were reluctant to go our separate ways, I then realized that the three hours that just passed was one of the happiest episodes in my life. Look, in such a big country as China, there are many times one can grow angry from all kinds of unfortunate situations. But due to such lovable personalities, these kinds of bad feelings can very easily be ameliorated by the tiniest little things.”
(The two little girls and their family members whom he ran into at the Ningbo train station)
David and his unbreakable bond with China
……Just in these successive anecdotes, I finished an interview that extended to four hours long with this Mr. David Iwinski, the Managing Director of Blue Water Growth. Whether it was the first lunch interview or the second phone interview, David always inspires me. Whether it’s his keen intelligence, his optimistic attitude, his sensitivity, or his enormous interest and knowledge in Chinese people, culture, and cities, these all make me, someone far from my homeland, feel particularly close to him. At the same time, being one with a profound love for his hometown of Pittsburgh, he also greatly inspires me to work at a career in my second hometown and forge my own business card of one proud Chinese who is living and creating in Pittsburgh affectionately.
From my careful recollection, within the whole interview there were many interesting things that should be shared with everybody. We can use these things to better understand David Iwinski’s impression on China, his deep feelings about his hometown of Pittsburgh,and his warm welcome towards Chinese students, travelers, and businesspeople to come here.
David is a senior business executive having rich experience doing business with Chinese people, and has also traveled around the world to many countries and cities. From pharmaceutical equipment manufacturing management (Respironics), to international mergers and acquisitions consulting (Blue Water Growth), he has from beginning to end always maintained a positive attitude on life, understood other people, and fought to satisfy the needs of his different clients, including international acquisition cases as well as his daughters’ birthday gifts and his pets’ habits of clinging to people.
Regarding China, from 1988, after arriving in China for the first time, he formed an unbreakable bond with it. Apart from living in China for five years, he has altogether been to China over 100 times and visited over 20 cities, tasting the delicious delicacies of many different cuisines. When asking him about his favorite Chinese cities, Mr. Iwinski said they were Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. He also gave an extremely interesting explanation. He said, “Beijing represents China’s profound history, just like Rome in Western culture; Shanghai as an internationalized metropolis represents China’s bustling interconnectedness with the world, just like New York and Paris; and Shenzhen was not only the place where I lived for five years, but was also the gateway of the Reform and Opening-up. This city’s change in the past 40 years has influenced both Chinese development and even more so the development of the world.”
(David and daughter on the Great Wall of China)
When I asked him about his overall impression of China and how he hopes Chinese people understand him, David says that, in his eyes, China and Chinese people are constantly changing, tenacious and unyielding, warm and friendly, full of curiosity, and at the same time China is on the tip of the tongue. Chinese people love eating, understanding eating, fond of eating; eating has already become a kind of culture for them. Everybody loves filling up tables and sharing piping hot food, yet many other places aren’t like this at all. And he himself hopes that his Chinese friends know that he is brimming with reference and respect for China’s several thousand years of history and its success in receiving worldwide attention in the past 40 years; every time he is in China, he evolves through the happiness of his innermost being and sincerely likes and is thankful for the people and events he encounters; moreover, he is deeply grateful to all the Chinese people who have ever helped him, including the hotel assistants, who are always helping him find a place for all his luggage, helping him with his meetings and appointments, and overall helping him deal with all manner of trivial things.
David’s deep homesickness
At this point, it’s possible that what the reader is feeling is the same as what I’m feeling: “how can this businessman, so brimming with vim, be also filled with such meticulous sensibility?” Within a few hours of being in touch with David, I felt a deep affinity for this American, and even had the opportunity to explore the root cause beneath his magnificent sensibility.
Born in Pittsburgh, David says that his cheerful personality is inseparable from his home environment, and at the same time comes from the overall friendliness of Pittsburgh deepening his connection with people and his propensity for helping others. From being born, going to school, and working here, to doing business around the world, one could say that David has seen both the trials of a long journey as well as its many beauties, but what he’s most proud of is still this the city that is neither big nor small and that is, in many architects’ eyes, the only city in the world with a facade — Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh’s front door is the famous city landscape that one sees when passing through the Fort Pitt Tunnel from the airport.) David says that Pittsburgh is a complete package that has it all — peace and security, comfort, law and order, the environment, good living, the city’s rhythm, all in harmony; both high-brow and low-brow, with consumption levels both high and low to satisfy different people’s needs, an effusively blooming art culture, rich educational resources, a wide variety of trade and commerce options for people to choose from; closeness with nature, with a friendly outdoor sports environment. It must be said, according to my own experience studying and working in Pittsburgh these past four years, this kindly city is indeed filled with gentle temperaments, and this has allowed its people to become friendly, peaceful, warm, and open.
(David’s three poodles)
(David’s cat: Miss Summer)
As a born and bred Pittsburgher who also is continually serving and giving feedback to other Pittsburghers, was inevitably asked for his advice for Chinese students, tourists, and businesspeople.
David at first talked about Pittsburgh’s current condition of economic development. He said that a wise man submits to circumstances. “Chinese people pay very particular attention to big trends. Pittsburgh is currently experiencing high-speed economic development and industrial growth. In education, advanced manufacturing, medical treatment, science and technology, robots, energy, sewage treatment, improving the environment, and in other domains’ outstanding achievements and ripe experiences, these are all exactly what China needs both now and in the future. So the trend of coming to Pittsburgh to study, look around, and do business is, as far as Chinese people are concerned, a necessity.” He hopes all the people coming to this “Pittsburgh village” are able to reap both joy and material benefits.
Regarding students, David hopes that China’s study abroad students both young and old can leave their classrooms and dormitories and communicate more with locals. Gain much more understanding of American and Pittsburgh culture, because studying is only a part of life; textbook knowledge is just one portion of the foundation for understanding the world and creating value. At the same time he also encourages more students and parents to realize the value of a liberal arts and sciences education and to find the most suitable school, not just the name-brand ones. David graduated from Duquesne University for undergrad and from the University of Pittsburgh for his graduate degree and now sits on the Board of Trustees at Seton Hill University. Duquesne isn’t world-famous, but it’s precisely the place where he cultivated his leadership abilities, where he received such focused guidance, helping him to advance his career step-by-step. And it was due to the comprehensiveness of his liberal arts education that led to his interests in poetry and music went to law, science and technology, and manufacturing and logistics, all in which he put his training to good use, thus also leading to him possessing an inner quality that had become happy and interesting.
With regard to those coming to tour Pittsburgh, David excitedly made fun of himself perhaps, when he had time, becoming a tourguide to take people to explore the whole city’s distinguishing features and landscapes, to every big theater of its Cultural District, to go to music concerts and to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (David is also very active on the leadership team of Pittsburgh Symphony), and also to Pittsburgh’s surrounding areas and suburbs to go on outings experiencing the rustic environment. He said Pittsburgh is a city that you have to use your heart to feel; people will most definitely bring stories back home with them.
For those wishing to come to Pittsburgh to do business, David also has a message. He said Pittsburgh is very friendly, and especially so with businessmen, so as long as one is interested they can be at ease about coming here to check it out in person and make a wide circle of friends. Once the business regulations are understood, it’s easy to perceive a business opportunity. “Of course if there’s a question you can always look for David.”
David’s contact information
David adores China and cares deeply for those from all walks of life who come here to live, work, or travel. He is allowing me to share his email address here with our friends in China, all of whom are welcome to contact him at any time: email@example.com
Author: Lingling Zhu, Manager of the Greater China Initiatives, Idea Foundry, Inc., Pennsylvania’s Special Envoy to China.
Translated by Josh Hanson from the original Chinese edition of this article.
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