Meet The Top First-Year MBAs From China

The number of Chinese citizens taking the GMAT increased by 22% to reach 70,744 between testing years 2012 and 2016.

Some economists have described the new Millennium as the “Chinese Century.” Hyperbole? Maybe, but it’s hard to ignore the momentum that the nation has enjoyed over the past three decades. From the emergence of coastal urban clusters and tech parks to increasing investment in higher education and high speed rail, China has rapidly transformed itself into a premier economic power.

With a population of 1.3 billion people — and 75% of the population expected to be “middle income” by 2030 according to a 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report — the nation has become ground zero for ambitious MBAs from every corner of the globe. This energy has also turned home-grown enterprises like CEIBS and HKUST into business schools that can compete with many of the best.


For many Chinese students, an MBA degree is the ticket to the opportunities and riches ahead.  In GMAC’s 2016 test year, Chinese students sat for the GMAT 70,744 times, accounting for over 27% of the 261,248 GMATs taken worldwide. Chinese test-takers even outperformed their American counterparts by a 581-to-547 average margin in 2016. As a result, Chinese students have become increasingly popular options for adcoms worldwide.

This year, you’ll find several Chinese students among the top students at the top programs worldwide. Each year, Poets&Quants asks MBA programs from INSEAD to Michigan State to give our readers a sneak peek at some of their high-po first-year students. This year, there was no shortage of accomplished Chinese students on the list.

Look no further than INSEAD’s Shu Shu, a native of Chengdu, who holds both a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and a CFA. During an eight year stint with Royal Dutch Shell, she worked in United States, the Netherlands, and Singapore, where she opened new markets in areas ranging from South America to Australia. What was Shu’s biggest accomplishment? She was an integral part of a team that spearheaded Shell’s $4.5 billion dollar acquisition of the Liquefied Natural Gas business from Spain’s Repsol. Oh, and she did all this while she was pregnant!


Not to be outdone, the University of Toronto’s Haolin Zhang ran an ambitious marketing partnership between Mars and Wal-Mart. In fact, the effort was a case study in managing up, as his team members often held director or VP titles. That didn’t deter Zhang — and the results speak for themselves.

“The campaign eventually grew business by 15%, attracted more than 100,000 shoppers to take part in the charity program, and delivered more than 280,000 nutritious meals to the kids in poor areas in China,” Zhang points out. “It demonstrated success of a new form of charity marketing, a win-win strategy to develop business, spread brand, and to improve public awareness of making the world a better place.”

Shu and Zhang were hardly alone in making their proverbial dent in the business universe. Before entering business school, Notre Dame’s Charles Jintao Jiang, a researcher and lover of Chinese poetry, helped patent a life-saving process to increase the half-life time of small peptide drugs. IESE’s Lance (Xiaohu) Kuang, who describes himself as a “doctor with a business mindset and a warm heart,” launched a startup that marketed an ophthalmic disease screening device for rural patients. Let’s not forget Michigan State’s Weifei Zou, who admits to once receiving a massage…by an elephant! She helped to better integrate General Motors by developing an ERP system.


What strategies did these top performers use to get into the business schools of their dreams? Surprisingly, their success had less to do with the GMAT and more with how they perceived themselves — and their options. Jing Liu, a Carnegie Mellon first year, emphasizes the importance of reflecting on one’s life and understanding how defining events shaped them.

“Begin to think of your stories as early as possible and pick several of them that can best demonstrate your accomplishment and personality,” she explains. “Interpret the stories using STAR principle (Situation, Task, Action, Result). These stories are treasures for your application. Polish these treasures to be concise and even attractive. They can be used in essays, utilized as guidelines to the recommenders, and also be applied in interviews to reveal your uniqueness.”

After spending six years in the United States, HEC ParisRan Wang initially planned to pursue his MBA there. With a 770 GMAT score in hand, Wang decided to follow his passion for Europe after asking himself this question: “At the age of 70, will I regret my decision today if I choose School A over School B for my MBA?” Wang’s experience personifies a crucial piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone.


Muzi Yu, a Global HR Program Manager at Dell, took this nugget to heart too. By keeping an open mind, she eventually found the right fit at INSEAD. “I had a wrong assumption that 1-year program would not be able to cover as much as a 2-year program,” she admits. “However, after getting to know INSEAD more, I totally changed my mind. You learn as much here at INSEAD, and culturally, it is the best fit for me who is quite entrepreneurial and love to know so much about different cultures.”

Perhaps the most simple — and most important — advice comes from Jintao Jiang. His success stemmed from just getting started and refraining from continuously second-guessing himself. “There is a Chinese proverb “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Try to start the process early so you will have less regrets when you look back. Even if you cannot get a perfect score for GMAT due to time conflict with your work, do not disqualify yourself. Tell your story and show the admissions committee the total package of who you are with essay writing and the admission interview to balance the weakness of your application. No one is perfect and be true to yourself.”

Wondering where some of the top Chinese MBA students are going to school? Want to know how they got into their target schools? Curious what their plans are after graduation? Check out our in-depth profiles of these students below.

Charles Jintao Jiang / Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Lance (Xiaohu) Kuang / IESE

Jing Liu / Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Xiaoxiao Lou / Duke (Fuqua)

Shu Shu / INSEAD

Ran Wang / HEC Paris

Webber Xu / Yale School of Management

Muzi Yu / INSEAD

Haolin Zhang / University of Toronto (Rotman)

Weifei Zou / Michigan State (Broad)


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