Q: What is your background and what do you do at Cass as it relates to China?
A: I’ve been at Cass over ten years, and I specialise in emerging markets and MBA course development. Six years ago I started the Cass China Symposium, where we take our MBA students to Shanghai for a week to learn how business really happens in China, rather than reading it in a book. The trip is also a networking opportunity, an opportunity to meet business leaders, mainly expats, but also others from Hong Kong, Greater China and from Shanghai itself. For example, our students have met the CFO of Siemens Medical Shanghai, the company that makes the body scanners – they’re a subsidiary of the German Siemens, obviously. Last year we met the chief executive of COSCO, Ronnie Chan and senior managers from international FMCG, financial institutions and manufacturers.
Q: Is a week enough?
A: A week is never enough, but it’s very intense and it enables our students to start to develop their own knowledge. Quite a few stay on for a few more days to explore China, others go back. We would never say you’re going to understand China, or the Chinese market, or even the Shanghai market after one week, but what will happen is that you will make contacts through the speakers and the China-based Cass alumni. Everyone wants something different from understanding and relationship with China.
Q: What are most of them looking for from China these days?
A: A lot of them are looking to work in China. China is the big growth story. They also realise they may work for a Chinese company internationally or work with a Chinese company in a business venture. It’s an understanding that no matter where they are in the world you are you are probably going to deal with a Chinese company at some point.
Q: What about in the other direction. Are Chinese students coming to Cass?
A: While we do attract Chinese students to our MBA programme, the full time course is quite small with only 80 students so we have only a few per year. But our Masters’ degrees attract many Chinese students and China is an important market. But for Cass it’s not a numbers market, it’s about quality. We strongly believe that you could fill up your classes with students from any number of countries around the world quite easily. What is important is providing an international experience for everyone. Business is now global, you can’t be Chinese, you can’t be English, you can’t be American, you need to be a global business person.
Q: There’s some debate about how truly globalized business cultures have become, though. It’s an item of faith among some business professionals and recently graduated MBAs that staying in China too long hurts your career advancement back at home. The business environment here is too peculiar, they say, and you’re out of the loop back at home. So they want to come here for a year or two, and then leave. Are they right?
A: I think they’re right and they’re wrong. There’s such a big cross section of people who travel internationally to work. There are those who go for the checkbox, you, “I’ve got my Chinese experience, now I can go back.” And then there are those who really want to understand China and see China as the key market for the future. This is a journey that the whole business community is going through in China. The question is, has China emerged as a business economy, or is it still emerging? What’s happening is there is a grey area between the two now. People may be getting sent there because it’s an emerging market, but in some ways it has emerged. China is now being seen by some firms as a tier one posting, at least in the main cities. But it’s going to take a period of time for that to happen over the whole country and looking at China as a single business entity can be misguided.
A: How are you getting your faculty? I understand there’s a bottleneck, so how do you find people to teach about business in China?
Q: I think that’s why we choose to come to China physically to teach China business. The theory you can learn anywhere, but practical experience is only by being on the ground listening speaking and experiencing. Also, our perspective is very integrated between teaching and learning. Throughout the rest of the course our students don’t have a specific course called China, but they have examples and case studies from China, which are still not extensive unfortunately, but they are about doing business and understanding how business is done in those environments, rather than a geography lesson.