China has come a long way in 40 years. Back then, nine-out-of-ten people lived in poverty. Today, that number has been turned upside down. In the past 30 years alone, China has lifted over 800 million people out of poverty according to the World Bank. In the past six years alone, the country has reduced rural poverty by 55 million people.
Startled? Picture this: In 1978, China’s GDP was $150 billion dollars. Fast forward to 2017, where the World Bank found the nation’s GDP stood at $12.24 trillion dollars. Indeed, GPD has doubled every eight years at an average 9.5% clip during this period according to a 2019 Congressional Research Report. With the United States, trade has rocketed from $5 billion to $660 billion dollars over 40 years. In just the past year, China’s industrial output and retail sales have jumped by 6.2% and 8% respectively – despite tit-for-tat tariffs with America. Here’s the most impressive stat of all: the Chinese government believes it will double the size of its economy over 2010.
Those numbers translate to a spike in the standard of living – and all the opportunities that come with it. Home to 1.4 billion people, China represents the world’s largest economy for purchasing power (not counting being the top exporter on the globe). With consumers poised to spend $25 trillion dollars, China has attracted nearly every major company to its shores. The nation is the headquarters for 119 Fortune 500 firms – nearly equaling the United States’ total of 121. Beyond its dazzling skylines, China has always represented a new world. In Medieval times, traders followed the Silk Road, bringing home luxury goods like jade and sugar – along with innovations like paper and gunpowder. When Christopher Columbus made his maiden voyage, he was seeking Cathay – a fabled land of wealth and resources. Turns out, Columbus had heard right about China’s abundant national resources – including coal, gold, copper, timber, gems, and natural gas – that are estimated to be worth over $23 trillion dollars.
Such developments simply fulfill a saying that’s been passed down for generations: “China is a sea that salts all the waters that flow into it.”
As enigmatic as it is dynamic, China is complicated. Home to 297 languages and 56 ethnic groups, the nation is facing growing pains. With success comes higher expectations – a demand for more at a faster rate. Big picture, China is wrestling with the same questions on its role and model that still dog America. As nations debate walls, China designs roads, never hesitating to invest in an uncertain future.
NEED TO LIVE IT TO LEARN IT
One of those investments is education. In business education, the crown jewel is CEIBS, the China Europe International Business School. Founded in 1994, CEIBS garnered headlines in 2019, ranking 5th in the world according to The Financial Times – up from 16th just three years ago. The reason has little to do with its coveted Shanghai location. Instead, CEIBS produced results, as in $174,115 average pay within three years of graduation…or a 172% bump over pre-MBA pay. In other words, CEIBS MBAs earn more than graduates from Ivy League programs like Dartmouth Tuck, Yale SOM, and Cornell Johnson.
Beyond pay, CEIBS presents an opportunity to pivot. In fact, 86% of CEIBS MBAs are switching industries or functions (sometimes both). That was the case for Pablo Che León Sarmiento, a 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, who moved from engineering to management. He became fascinated with China from watching Bloomberg Tech, where news often revolved around technological innovation in China. For him, the programming at most business schools – a week or two trek to China – wouldn’t suffice. To learn it, he needed to live it. It was this same spirit that led Jan-Peter Boeckstiegel, a member of the Class of 2021, to choose CEIBS.
“Raw, first-hand exposure to and experience with Chinese perspectives and approaches,” writes the Harvard grad and McKinsey consultant. “It is living alongside Chinese students on campus, meeting Chinese business leaders and companies, and experiencing what it means to be a customer, co-worker and manager in China, in the classroom and in the “real world” and beyond.”
“LEAVE YOUR MISCONCEPTIONS AT THE DOOR”
William Yan, a 2018 P&Q Best & Brightest who moved from journalism to operations, was also struck by China’s ever-evolving business model that continues to churn out new opportunities. For him, CEIBS enabled him to jump into the mix, not just observe it. That’s exactly what first-year Jérôme Poitou intends to do as well.
“CEIBS managed to strike the right balance between leveraging its Chinese heritage and going global,” writes the Caribbean attorney. “This is that ability to cleverly and meaningfully convey as much as possible of its China expertise in a way that benefits both its Chinese and its international MBA students…That ability manifests itself in many ways. The selection of cases reviewed in class, the choice of the China-focused modules, and the Integrated China Strategy Project (ICSP) are various ways in which MBA students are able to not only study and understand problems that are specific to the domestic Chinese economy but also better appreciate China’s contribution to the world. In a sense, the CEIBS MBA program is a reflection of Shanghai itself, a city that has kept its identity as a Chinese economic and cultural center while opening itself to western influences.”
What makes a CEIBS student? That’s really hard to say according to South Africa’s Mtha Moses. Thus far, he has found his Class of 2021 peers to be “multifaceted,” where “not one person fits neatly into any category.” His advice: “Leave your misconceptions at the door.”
“We have a rapping diplomat, swing dancing philosopher, a DJ-ing, classically-trained musician, and a classic Chinese literature enthusiast-forest consultant. I supposed it is typical of the MBA experience that it draws in the type of people who are not easily satisfied with a mundane existence. What makes it special in the CEIBS case is that it abolishes all stereotypes about the dour Asian student. I think it serves the allegory of the misconceptions about China in general.”
FROM FASHION MODEL TO AUDITOR
Specifically, the class features students whose alma maters range from Fudan University to NYU to University College London. Their backgrounds range from investment banking to exports to mining. Raluca Georgescu, for one, grew up in Romania, studied at the University of Barcelona, and went on to become a fashion model and Deloitte auditor. “I learned Chinese within a year and joined the largest Chinese e-commerce operator as one of the only foreigners among 6,000 colleagues,” she writes.
Frank Zefeng Peng, a native of Chongqing, studied at the University of Maryland before becoming a journalist and editor at The Global Times, a 1.5 million reader daily. The best part about being a journalist for Peng? “I was able to travel to different countries, such as Nepal, Australia, and France. Fortunately, I had the chance to interview some very famous political and business leaders such as Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang, author Dr. John Naisbitt and Dutch football star Ruud Gullit. The process of interviewing them was an extraordinary experience.”
Peng wasn’t the only class member to be part of history. At Teigland Hunt, a Manhattan-based boutique law firm, Jérôme Poitou was called in to advise on the securities and derivatives regulation for the launch of the largest hedge fund startup. “The fund successfully launched with $8.4 billion USD in assets under management. As a result of my contribution to a team effort, I was promoted to the level of managing associate shortly thereafter.”
THE POINT MAN AT APEC LIMA
Looking for a man for all seasons? Meet Zhe Wang, who speaks fluent English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin. Before business school, he served as an Attaché – a diplomat – in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, operating out of embassies in Spain, Peru, and China. His crowning achievement, he says, was coordinating the Chinese delegation’s participation in 2016’s APEC Lima Summit – a two-day meeting that focused on boosting regional economics and drew leaders from 22 countries (including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping).
“Working together with colleagues from all around the Asia-Pacific region to prepare for the big event and witnessing the conversations between the leaders of all the Asia-Pacific economies,” he writes, “I was impressed with the extraordinary economic energy of the region and the contribution that China has made and could continue to make in it.”
The class is packed with intrapreneurs too. Irene Chen, a vice president for an asset management firm, used season trading patterns in the fixed income market to craft a trading strategy for cutting financing costs. In four years, Max Hinchman turned an export operation from virtually nothing to a $17.5 million dollar operation. At the same time, Charatsri Tanaphuwanont can take pride in helping to turn a client into a business juggernaut.
“I was part of the three-member team advising one of Thailand’s leading real estate developers on the acquisition of six resorts in Asia-Pacific to increase their global footprint and hotel portfolio,” she explains. “Later, I advised the group on shareholding and capital restructuring as well as on a spin-off IPO of their hospitality business. The newly-listed holding company now owns 39 resorts and hotels with 4,647 keys in 5 countries. The IPO transaction was completed within 1.5 years after the acquisition and raised over THB 7,400 million under Regulation S.”
To access 12 in-depth profiles of CEIBS MBA students, go to page 3.
To read an exclusive interview with MBA Director Juan Antonio Fernandez, go to pages 2-3.