John Graham is director of the newly established John S. and Marilyn Long US-China Institute for Business and Law. The think tank joins together the law and business schools at University of California, Irvine, with Fudan University’s School of Management – marking the first collaboration between US law and business programs with a Chinese university. Graham, a professor at UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business, specializes in global marketing, international business negotiations and business in Greater China and Japan. He spoke with China Economic Review on a recent visit to Fudan University.
Q: What kind of research have you conducted on Chinese business?
A: I’ve done research on Chinese negotiation styles in Tianjin, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Kaohsiung in Taiwan. I was also involved in another study in Hong Kong, where we examined negotiations between Chinese and American business people, and we looked at the problems that pop up most frequently. More recently, I’ve been concentrating on developing a method to measure the commercial relationship between China and the US. We usually look at trade and we see growth there. In terms of finance, more cross-border investments are being made in both countries. More business people are traveling between China and the US. The number of patents granted to invention teams that include both Chinese and American citizens has also grown exponentially from 45 in 2000 to 738 in 2010. We’re going to combine several of these factors, look at it every year and measure progress in the relationship.
Q: How will you measure the success of the US-China Institute for Business and Law?
A: Politicians from both countries use xenophobia to bolster their influence – and the press tends to report on our resulting mutual fears. We want to show the healthy state of commerce between the two countries. One of our measures of success is if we see a decline in negative political rhetoric. We can also measure the institute’s success in terms of the research we sponsor and its impact. We can look at how many people read our research and are influenced by it. For us, the fundamental aim is to look at whether the US and China’s commercial relationship is getting stronger and how we can play a role in helping it grow.
Q: Why is it important to combine the studies of business, law, the US and China?
A: The institute’s founder John Long has said that these subjects are the four walls that frame the “house” of our institute – and I really think that is what makes us unique. If you Google the term “US-China business institute,” a number of different institutes pop up. But if you add law, only one result comes up. Obviously, business and law are connected. You can see that with business contracts, establishing joint ventures, intellectual property and also corruption – they’re all related to both business and law. Almost every problem in commerce involves both areas.
Q: What do you think is the most pressing issue in US-China business and law?
A: If there’s going to any friction between the two countries in the future, one area that would likely pose a problem is in energy policy and energy availability. It’s important that we combine ideas on smart energy and building a sustainable environment. I think that a key to innovation is having a diversity of views, so both countries have something to gain by collaborating. Issues with energy consumption and our carbon footprint need to be addressed right away.
Q: What kinds of online activities will the think tank facilitate?
A: We’re going to have some of the best minds from both campuses working with this institute, so it’s important that we promote dialogue and collaboration. Of course, the internet is very useful for that. Right now, we have an US version of the website and Fudan will produce one as well. We’ll have a common space that will act as a forum for people to communicate. That could be in the form of a blog, or perhaps surveys over the internet where we ask Chinese and American business people to provide input. We’ll also have students at both schools participate in negotiation simulations over the internet, among other activities.
Q: What other opportunities will be available to students?
A: We hope to launch a summer program next year that will involve students from UC Irvine, Fudan and the University of Cantabria in Spain. Each university would send six students – two law students, two engineering students and two business students – who will work together for two weeks at each campus and learn about sustainable environment and smart energy through the US-China Institute for Business and Law. If that’s successful, then there’s a possibility that we’d expand further. We’ll also have student exchanges and scholarships for doctoral students who are interested in US-China relations.
Q: Why was Fudan chosen for this partnership?
A: Over the years, UC Irvine and Fudan have developed a strong connection. For example, a number of Chinese students who enter our MBA program graduated from Fudan’s undergraduate program. We also have a number of doctoral students from UC Irvine who teach at Fudan. Shanghai is a great place for us to work in: It’s not only a vibrant city, but also the country’s commercial center. At the same time, the institute hopes to work with other Chinese business and law schools in the future, with Fudan as the nexus.
Q: The US-China Institute for Business and Law includes UC Irvine’s business and law schools, as well as Fudan’s management school. Why isn’t Fudan’s law school involved?
A: The institute was founded because of discussions between the two business schools first. The development of UC Irvine and Fudan’s business schools is pretty similar, but law schools in the US are much older institutions than in China. On this trip to Shanghai, we have been speaking with Fudan’s law school and we intend to build a relationship there as well. We’re also interested in working with Fudan’s Center for American Studies and the School of International Relations and Public Affairs.
Q: What do you hope the institute accomplishes in its first year?
A: We hope to launch our summer program for sustainable environment and smart energy one year from now. We will support a number of research studies that include Chinese and American collaborators. In our first year we’ll provide US$50,000 in grants, which can probably fund about eight to 10 research projects initially. We expect to put on a major conference – which will be held annually in either Shanghai or California – that brings together business people, lawyers and scholars.