Quzhou College faculty exchange continues with automotive
instructor Fang Xiaofen
Fang Xiaofen (Fong Show-fen), visiting faculty member
from Quzhou College of Technology, has been discovering the American way of
life during his stay in Winona. He likes the people, saying Minnesotans are
"very nice" and "warm-hearted." He likes the food,
especially American and Mexican restaurants. He enjoys taking a morning or
evening stroll around Lake Winona.
But his face really lights up when he starts talking
about cars, especially American cars. "We usually drive small cars in
China. U.S. cars are so huge and there are lots of pickup trucks."
Of course he notices cars - Fang is an automotive
instructor in Quzhou, where he teaches courses such as fundamentals of auto
mechanics, electric vehicles, car service, vehicle inspection and maintenance.
At home, Fang drives a red Volkswagen Polo - the equivalent
of a VW Golf. "VWs are very
popular. In China cars are made especially for our market. Imported cars are
very expensive. Foreign manufacturers must set up a joint venture with a
domestic (Chinese) company in order to make cars in China."
Besides spending time in the Automotive Technology and
Auto Body Collision Technology departments at Southeast Technical in Winona,
Fang has gotten out for some eye-opening field trips. "I spent the
afternoon last week at Dahl Automotive - it is very huge! There are lots of
used cars as well as new. That's very different. In China you would never see
second-hand cars along with new cars."
He also visited a salvage yard where auto parts can be
removed, refurbished and reused. "That's simply not possible in China,"
he says. "Our cars are made for one-time usage only. Right from when they
were designed and built, every part is only meant to be used once. There's no
such thing as used auto parts for sale."
Fang hasn't gotten to do much driving during his visit,
but he did take a turn at driving one of the 18-wheel trucks from the Southeast
Technical Truck Driving program. He admits that it was a nerve-wracking
experience. "You're up so high, you are looking down on top of regular
cars. It's like driving a tank --it was the biggest truck I've ever
Within the last 20 years, China has become the second
largest car market in the world, after the USA. The middle class is expanding
and more people can afford modestly-priced autos now. Nonetheless, a car costs
about the same as a full year's salary.
"Most people save up money to buy the car outright.
Saving is really the lifestyle there. But the younger generation wants to buy a
house first, so they are willing to borrow money to buy a house, and then pay
for the car outright," he says.
When asked about his favorite American made cars, Fang is
quick to reel off a string of brand names. He mentions Chevrolet, Pontiac,
Mercury, Lincoln, GMC, Buick and Cadillac. V8 engines are especially exciting.
On a recent excursion to the local Cadillac dealer in Red Wing,
Fang enjoyed peering in the windows of some extremely high-end cars. "These are
the kind of cars you would see in the movies!" he exclaims, and then has a
good laugh at the sticker shock. "This one would cost about 20 years'
salary. Add in the import tax and it would be double that!"
Fang will be on his way back to Quzhou very soon, but hopes to
bring a bit of Minnesota back with him as he works with Southeast Technical
faculty to set up online, video and ITV courses for his Chinese pupils. He
would like to create an SAE certification program in cooperation with Southeast
Technical. But no, he won't be bringing a Cadillac home!
Thanks to Tao T. Peng for assistance with translation
during the interview and to Red Wing Chevrolet Buick Cadillac for allowing
photography at their location.