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Getting An MBA In China: An American In Shanghai

Now, able to take electives since last quarter, he’s been focusing on finance courses, even though he plans to go into marketing. He’ll read articles to learn more about marketing and digital media, he says. “I’m trying to learn more just about companies in general,” he says. “I feel like I learned the most in just basic accounting. I had no idea about accounting.”

A team-based approach to many school projects, in which a group of half a dozen usually has four or so Chinese students and a couple of foreigners, helps students work effectively and learn about different business practices, Shimota says. “Doing this international MBA, you really start to see the benefits of having a diverse team.”

CEIBS professor Xu Bin

CEIBS professor Xu Bin

Although all the classes are in English, Shimota has found cultural differences in the way education is delivered. Star macroeconomics professor Xu Bin struck Shimota at first as shy, and less than confident. “Maybe it was my American-ness but I was like, ‘I like confidence and power,'” Shimota says. But Bin’s understated demeanor and delivery were merely cultural and personal trappings. Shimota would learn from Bin lessons important to his career plans, concerning the effect of China’s managed economy on Chinese overseas investments. “You kind of start to see why (Bin is) so respected here in China,” Shimota says. “In the West we believe in the market capital system and it works. But because of how China’s economy is shaped, they don’t have to follow the same rules we do.”

‘HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT WE KNOW HOW TO DRINK?’

The CEIBS MBA program doesn’t address the effects on businesses of corruption, but some international MBA candidates have questions, Shimota says. “You can see some of the students, especially some of the international students, kind of wondering about the same question, and trying to bring it up in class. They’re like, ‘How important is it that we know how to drink?'”

In one class, some foreign students were appalled at a professor’s frank statement that most businesses routinely delay paying bills, but the way Shimota sees it, “that happens both in the U.S. and China.”

“The U.S. is as crooked in so many ways in business practice as China and anywhere else,” Shimota insists.

In another of Shimota’s classes, however, students researched a case that tracked the effect of China’s ongoing anti-corruption crackdown on sales of two brands of baijiu, a white grain-alcohol liquor. One brand was expensive, and beloved by government officials, and the other was “the people’s alcohol,” Shimota says. The pricey stuff took a “huge hit” after anti-corruption measures began to gain traction, Shimota says. And what of that company’s future? “We had to go deeper in: how much will government officials continue to drink?”

Shimota would like to see classes at CEIBS on the politics that profoundly affect Chinese enterprises, but the subject is mostly absent from the programing, he says.

CEIBS professor Bala Ramasamy

CEIBS professor Bala Ramasamy

But concerning straight-up economics, Shimota credits professor Bala Ramasamy with providing a clear and comprehensive education. “He’s an amazing professor. How he delivers a lecture is very powerful. You’ve seen the Lion King, right? He’s basically Mufasa (father of Simba and humbler of hyenas). He speaks really slowly and with a lot of confidence. He’s just kind of a classic orator. You can give him any situation and he can really think about the different aspects of that and apply it to really, really basic economic theory. He’s the kind of person who can take anything and make it easy to understand.”