China Dreaming: Would-Be MBAs Storm China

Boot Camp participants touring Baosteel headquarters in Shanghai. Photo by Nathan Allen

Boot camp participants touring Baosteel headquarters in Shanghai. Photo by Nathan Allen


Chen says the growth of multinational and national firms alike bodes well for an MBA. “Companies here want to expand domestically and internationally, so they need, and get, talent,” he explains. What’s more, he adds, companies now have enough money to recruit and hire MBAs. “They need people doing mergers and acquisitions, both global and domestic. They need strategy,” Chen continues. “That’s where they need MBAs.”

CEIBS Admissions and Career Services Director Yvonne Li says it has been a gradual process, but CEIBS research has been tracking a growing number of private Chinese companies acquiring companies in places like Europe, making them global companies — global companies in need of Western employees and managers. “You see, externally, media talking about China slowing down,” Li says. “But here at the business school, we see steady career placements.”

More than 94% of the CEIBS Class of 2015 received job offers within three months after graduation. Most impressively, 2015 graduates enjoyed an average 128.6% salary increase. Some of the top hiring companies for the school’s 2015 cohort include Amazon, Bayer, AB InBev, and Microsoft. “If you don’t have enough demand domestically, companies will go overseas,” Chen says. “And that’s what you’re seeing now with Chinese companies. That’s creating more competition. And that’s why talent is important. They need top talent.”

Li concurs. “They don’t look to other domestic schools,” she says of top recruiting companies. “If they are looking to pay top talent, they come here. That is the advantage we have.”


Of course, the largest hurdle for foreigners trying to enter the market is language. With more than 12,000 characters, Mandarin is widely considered one of the toughest languages to learn. “If you don’t speak the Chinese language, it’s a disadvantage in this market,” Chen says. While Flamerich believes knowing Mandarin “would be key to learning the most” during time spent in China, he doesn’t think it’s necessary for working in China. He points out that many of his Deloitte peers working in China operate in English. “Most of our clients have operations in China,” Flamerich says. “I think it would be naive for anyone in the States to not be thinking about China.”

Boot camper Ariel Briskin, originally from Jerusalem, has been managing a team of six Chinese nationals for two years at plastic recycling company Cintac Limited in Guangzhou. Briskin speaks Mandarin, but says many Chinese companies look toward Western management styles because of the more creative and out-of-the-box mindset.

“The thing Americans bring is different and unique,” Li says. “They bring their whole American perspective and understanding of American business practices. Then they come here and are exposed to the local business environment. And I think that they even work better than local people who have never been out.”


Despite a seemingly frothy market, Ramasamy warns participants to tread lightly and remember that China is still developing. While GDP numbers mellow, Ramasamy says to look beyond the figures for potential challenges and threats to the economy.

First, he says, pay attention to social welfare and state-run pension funds. In the 1980s, two things happened to drastically alter social welfare in China. The government placed more responsibility on private employers to create pensions for their employees, and China enacted its infamous “one child” policy. Unfortunately, private enterprises can be corrupt, and one child may not be enough to take care of two aging parents. The two factors weighed on the economy, Ramasamy says.

“This is going to be China’s big challenge,” Ramasamy says. “How are we going to ensure that the old are going to be taken care of?” By 2050, half of the Chinese population will be older than 50; by 2030, he says, there will be 300 million retired people in China. “That is nearly the entire population of the U.S.,” he notes.

“The retirement and pension system works well as long as you have more younger people than older people,” Ramasamy continues, “because the pension system is basically a pay-it-forward system. You take from the young and give it to the aging.”

When a woman reminds Ramasamy of China’s new policy allowing families to have two children, Ramasamy says it might be too little, too late. “Yes, you can increase the numbers to two, but that doesn’t mean they will have two children. It’s expensive,” he says. “Maybe this will reduce the problem, but it will certainly not eradicate the problem.” A concomitant difficulty: Many apartment buildings constructed during the Shanghai boom are smaller, Ramasamy notes, having been constructed with the one-child policy in mind.

There is an upside for China. The aging population bodes well for the healthcare and private insurance industries, and this can also benefit MBAs. Pharmaceuticals, biotech, and healthcare are now among the largest industries hiring CEIBS MBAs. In 2015, 18.2% of the graduating class went into the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Financial services and tech were the only two other industries to hire more CEIBS graduates, both employing 20.9% of the 2015 class. For internships in 2015, healthcare and manufacturing hired more CEIBS students than financial services and tech. Li says healthcare only became one of the top employers in the past three years.

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