July 14, 2020
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Part of a proud tradition of Fulbright Scholars at Kenyon, Mark Bosse ’12 is applying his joint major in history and Asian studies to pursue a research project on modern history in Tianjin, China. Here, Bosse talks to Kenyon about his research and life in Tianjin—known as Beijing’s “gateway to the sea”—where he has been residing for nearly a year.
I am studying the way American businessmen discuss the Chinese consumer from a historical perspective. The other aspect of my project requires me to investigate the way marketers conceptualize their potential customers in China today. I rely mostly on survey data, consumer market research, published memoirs, business guides, and lectures at the American Chamber of Commerce in China. While there has been a boom in consumer market research in China during the past decade, my research is among the first to take a reflexive approach to studying market strategy in China.
It signaled the end of the first Opium War with Great Britain and effectively opened five treaty ports, including Shanghai, to Western traders. The following century became what many regard as the heyday of Western commercial and cultural influence in China. Having studied this period as a history major at Kenyon, I was interested in looking for continuities between then and today, and asking the question, “Do we understand the Chinese consumer differently than we did 100 years ago?”
I have not decided if I want to publish a full-length academic paper or multiple short feature articles. I think my research will be valuable to anyone interested in China, so I would like to produce something that appeals to a large audience.
I recently was hired by a Chinese company in Beijing to help develop an international marketing platform for a new branch of the company. This will be its first foray into Western markets, so I am excited to be able to participate. In the future, I am considering management consulting as a way to expand my knowledge base and acquire a broad range of skills.
I have been living in Tianjin, but travel frequently to Beijing for events. The business community here is constantly on the move. Living in China is an incredible experience that reminds me that the world is a vast place.
The liberal arts curriculum allowed me to develop a broad knowledge base. Chinese people are very curious about America, so I feel grateful that I can discuss a wide range of subjects beyond marketing. Another important aspect is the Kenyon community. So many Kenyon students go abroad that the College has developed quite a name for itself internationally. When I tell people I went to Kenyon, they often respond, “Oh, do you know so-and-so?” That has been comforting to me.
The tranquility: Tianjin is a city of 13.5 million people, so peace is a state of mind. Coming out of high school in Manhattan, I couldn’t believe I was moving to rural Ohio, never mind China. The Fulbright program at Kenyon is truly excellent. My advisor (Professor of Asian History) Ruth Dunnell was an indispensable aspect of this achievement.