October 28, 2008,08:50 +0900(JST) China’s ancient capital Hangzhou and West Lake

I’ve been to China countless times, but I had never been to Hangzhou until my last trip. Hangzhou is a historic city, one of the six ancient capitals of China, whose origin can be traced back to the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC). Hangzhou prospered particularly as the capital of Wuyue Kingdom (907 – 978) and the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). Various locations in Hangzhou hint at its history, but the most prominent one, which is also the heart of the City, is Xi Hu or West Lake.

West Lake as viewed from the hotel roomThe eastern sky started to brighten just before 6 a.m. From my hotel room on the seventh floor, with a commanding view of West Lake, I admired the lake as it appeared in the morning. As the morning mist that had covered the surface of the lake quietly drifted and disappeared, small islands in the lake and old towers and arbors that dotted its shores became faintly and gradually visible. That was an unforgettable sight.

I changed quickly and went downstairs and outdoors, to make the most of the limited time I had there. Despite the early hour, there were already tourists about, speaking loudly to each other. They were probably unable to contain their emotions at the beauty of West Lake. In the park, I saw people doing t’ai chi, enjoying silent walks, breakfasting on benches. For an early Friday morning, there was a lively atmosphere around the lake.

I crossed Bai Di (Bai Causeway), constructed when the poet Bai Juyi was stationed as Governor in Hangzhou during the Tang Dynasty Zhenyuan Period (785 – 805). Bai Di was lined on both sides with peach and willow trees. In spring, the colorfully scenic site must please people’s eyes, as described in one of Bai Juyi’s poems. I also quickly crossed Su Di (Su Dike), which the poet Su Dongpo built, as did Bai Juyi, when he became Hangzhou’s Governor during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127). Both Di’s add scenic beauty to West Lake. Willow, plum, peach, fragrant olive trees and other such typically Chinese plants are found there. The lakeside promenade was clean and seemed to comfort visitors.

I suppose the beauty of West Lake is a result of many years’ fusion of Nature and Chinese wisdom. Oh, yes, I shouldn’t forget that West Lake (Xi Hu) is said to be named after Xi Shi, one of the Four Beauties of ancient China, originally from the ancient State of Yue (Zhejiang Province) of the Spring and Autumn Period (722 – 481 BC).

Now, let me close today's entry with my poor poem (quatrain with seven Chinese characters in each line).

October 24, 2008,11:40 +0900(JST) Joint ventures with Futong Group Co., Ltd. for optical fiber and optical cable businesses

In front of the signing ceremony venueAs already announced in Sumitomo Electric's press release, Sumitomo Electric and Futong Group Co., Ltd., headquartered in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, China, have reached an agreement to jointly run optical fiber and optical cable businesses at three bases in China: Hangzhou, Chengdu and Shenzhen (Hong Kong). The two companies held a signing ceremony on October 16, with the highest-ranking provincial and municipal leaders and many others in attendance.

A splendid dinner followed the signing ceremony; attendants were heard cheerfully proposing toasts here and there. The two companies were able to reach their agreement thanks to the dedicated efforts of the working groups involved in consulting and negotiating for over a year. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks and respect for them.

The information industry was seriously damaged at the time of the bursting of the IT bubble. The industry has recovered gradually; outside Japan-in Chinese, US and European markets, demand for optical fibers has been surpassing supply. Today, China is the world's largest optical fiber market, so it is highly significant for us to commence joint ventures at this time with a reliable partner.

In the extremely severe current business situation, with the unprecedented subprime crisis-triggered and financial turmoil seriously affecting the real economy, I attended the signing ceremony with my strong belief in the growth potential of China's information industry and my sincere hope that the Sumitomo Electric strength that we have built up thus far will develop into great success in China.

Visiting the plant siteBusiness projects always have ups and downs. Aware of this, the two companies mutually pledged that we would work together always in good spirits, maintain constructive tension, thoughtfulness and mutual trust, and develop joint ventures as strong and viable businesses.

On the following day I went by car to visit Fuyang, about one hour southwest of Hangzhou, to visit the Futong Group's head office and the plant site under construction. To make the most of this two-day, one-night trip to China, on the second day I woke up early in Hangzhou to enjoy a brisk walk around the famous West Lake for about an hour. More on West Lake in my next entry with my improvisatory poem.

October 21, 2008,09:08 +0900(JST) Company entrance ceremony (3)

I would like to repost my message for new recruits from last year's blog entry.

“Message for new recruits”

When I look back on my corporate life of many years, memories of pleasant times, as well as hardships, come to my mind. I have always worked at Sumitomo Electric, but I have undergone quite a few changes – different posts within the company and about ten relocations, including two overseas posts. So I have been constantly discovering new environments and different domains.

At the beginning of each new assignment, I sometimes felt slightly disoriented. To quickly grasp what I had to do in my new position, I carefully read documents of transfer of duties left by my predecessor, talked with my superiors, and designed my career path, setting goals to achieve for every 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months and 3 years. In setting specific goals by imagining myself in a position one grade above mine, I managed to draw up plans from a somewhat broad perspective. In addition, in working on each program I came to be convinced of the vital importance of careful preparation, passion and a determination to achieve.

As I rose within the organization, I had to work in a way that had a broader sphere of influence, so I adopted increasingly sophisticated approaches. Still, the basic rule has always been the same: showing myself and others my determination to carry through with the program, thereby motivating others around me and winning their sympathy, can get the desired results. Things may not work like this all the time, under all circumstances. Nevertheless, it is important to constantly do your best, because others seeing you working with an attitude of sincerity and fairness will give you what is probably the greatest treasure in your professional life: their trust and confidence in you. If a project does not work out well, you will have another chance. From my personal experience, I can say that others trust and confidence in you always bring about the desired results. Whenever I draw up a plan, I always make sure to avoid an approach made up entirely of how-to’s and what-to-do’s, with no underlying why-to’s. Such planning is in fact rather difficult to do, but it can be a very good intellectual exercise from a mid- to long-term perspective, and even if your why-to’s do not unfortunately win others’ approval, you can win their respect for having substance.

Having gotten into details, to conclude this message I would like to share with you now something more general, which I consider my personal principles for life: I believe it extremely important to always remain your natural self and have a tranquil mind. In other words, unexpected things happen in life, and how you react on such occasions must be consistent with who you are and what you believe in, and must never be superficial. You cannot learn to do this overnight; you must undergo daily exercise in self-discipline. I hope you keep this in a small corner of your mind. I would be pleased if my message were of some use at the outset of this new chapter in your life. I hope you will look after your physical health as well, and advance in your life with dignity.

October 17, 2008,09:17 +0900(JST) Company entrance ceremony (2)

From the afternoon to the evening of October 1, we held a reception for college and university students who are informally engaged to join the Company next April.

A total of 161 students are expected to start work on the professional track. Employee diversification and globalization are slowly progressing: women still constitute a small percentage, but they are growing in number each year, foreign nationalities as well.

Greeting at the receptionAt the reception, I was able to meet the students personally and sense their differently attractive personalities. I sincerely hope that these young people are the quality human resources who will lead the Sumitomo Electric Group in the future.

All the Directors attended the ceremony and had pleasant talks with the students, hearing them express their ideas and expectations in regard to starting work, and frankly talking about our views on working in the Company.

At the beginning of the reception, I spoke about our corporate culture, in which open communication is the norm, as well as the present general economic situation, the company’s policy for this year, and its progression. I particularly emphasized my expectation that the students would obtain all the credits required and graduate without problems, so I would be able to meet all of them at the entrance ceremony next spring. I didn’t mean that they simply had to graduate no matter what; rather, I asked them to spend the last months of their student life in a meaningful way, studying and building on their abilities. I believe that my message was correctly understood.

Scene from the receptionThe other day, a reader of the English-language version of my blog left a comment, saying that many of today’s young Japanese lack “zeal, fortitude, and hard work” and that we should adopt a result-oriented system to hire more foreigners. This is a very thought-provoking opinion, although it is easier said than done. With regard to hiring foreigners, I replied: “Sumitomo Electric has already grown into a global company and we think about human resource development from a global perspective. We don’t have much concern over this matter.”

Those young people who are expected to join us in April will be actively working on a worldwide scale. I sincerely hope that they will acquire a firm understanding of the backbone of the Sumitomo Electric Group-Sumitomo Business Spirit, the Sumitomo Electric Group Corporate Principles, and the Sumitomo Electric Group Charter of Corporate Behavior-and will work with us while making good use of their individual personalities.

October 14, 2008,10:40 +0900(JST) Company entrance ceremony (1)

I wrote in one of my recent entries that the general upward and expansive tendency that dominated the last business year has been completely replaced by a major “tsunami,” announcing the approach of a worldwide recession. The American financial turmoil triggered by the subprime loan crisis is now seriously impacting the real economy. It is of course not possible that we should be the only business not affected. Our business in the second half of the current year is therefore expected to be extremely difficult. Yet, I hope that all of the Sumitomo Electric Group will work together to overcome this hardship.

Delivering a letter of appointmentUnder such circumstances, on October 1 we held a ceremony and reception to welcome new Sumitomo Electric employees who joined the Company on that day and during the first six months of this current business year, as well as a reception for those informally engaged to start work at Sumitomo Electric in April 2009.

The ceremony and reception for new employees was held in a somewhat bracing atmosphere. This is probably because many of them, including 6 who joined the Company in the autumn and 64 hired mid-career, were already working with us and acutely aware of the situation confronting us.

There was nothing new in the message I gave to the new recruits as my way of expressing my expectations and encouragement. This year, as every year, I asked them to:
1. Master the basics of their work and do their work conscientiously,
2. Strive to improve and develop themselves constantly, and
3. Take great care in their communication with others.

Regarding the third request about communication, I impressed on them the growing importance of face-to-face communication, in this age of instant communication and global information networks.

I sincerely hope that our new recruits will quickly get used to their new environment and lifestyle, take good care of their health and safety, and fully develop and demonstrate their abilities, so as to realize a full working life.

SUMITOMO ELECTRIC President CEO Masayoshi Matsumoto

Born in 1944 in Hyogo Prefecture, Masayoshi Matsumoto joined Sumitomo Electric in 1967. After serving as General Manager of Chubu District Office, Managing Director and Senior Managing Director, he assumed office of President and CEO in June 2004.

His leisure activities include jogging, reading and art appreciation. Also a seasoned athlete, he played baseball in junior high school and practiced judo in senior high school. In university, he threw the javelin competitively and participated in all-Japan inter-university competitions.

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