Della Bradshaw's piece on " China 's lust for business learning" in the August 1, 2005 Financial Times (www.ft.com) demonstrates the scale of the opportunity to develop innovative programmes for management education customized for the Chinese market. There are already hundreds of private and university management education programmes currently developing products of various degrees of customization for the Chinese market. As China searches for its own global competitiveness strategy, the natural market response for the Chinese customer is to consume widely, select that which is advantageous and integrate it into the management process. There are many off-the-rack products which have value to a Chinese consumer of educational product: e.g. basic accounting and financial management, legal analysis to assist in compliance with international obligations, a core MBA curriculum on negotiations and management of relationships with investment bankers.
There is also a customized market for product designed for the equivalent of executive education product in North America and a more customized product that focuses on some needs and opportunities of the Chinese marketplace. The design of customized management education curriculum for China creates an interesting challenge for management educators.
In designing curriculums for other countries entering a new phase in their relationship with the global economy, management educators have previously had to teach issues of organizational design and organizational culture. This was the case in the transitional economies of the EBRD-zone, Eastern Europe and Russia. Key questions include:
How are incentive systems for entrepreneurship structured to a local organizational culture?
How does one create social and economic incentives for rapid change in a manufacturing plant that operated for decades on a non-profit set of criteria?
How does privatization work in a manner which produces new sources of productive capital?
As in most management education, cases are helpful in focusing the themes that need to be developed. But before we attempt to design the appropriate cases, non-Chinese management educators need to make certain judgments about the market they wish to be serving and specific priorities beyond the nuts-and-bolts themes of B-Schools (key accounting and finance). A top-20 Chinese B-School will not simply be a satellite or clone of Rotman, LBS or Stanford. Some market assessment questions that need to be addressed include:
First, for how long is off-the-rack non-customized course material valuable of value to China? This market is maturing as millions of Chinese have now had access to the minimal Business 100 aspects of non-customized business education. Millions of Chinese have already experienced the encouragement of their own work ethic driven entrepreneurialism and have now differnent expectations as consumers. As customers of B-School knowledge, their needs have evolved.
Second, how does one customize the "mass market" business education to regional niches in China? Non-Chinese investors are already starting to adapt their approaches to regional economic characteristics, competitive contexts and political cultures. Management educators need to do that as well. Is the same product appropriate for different parts of China, any more than we would teach the same case material in Vancouver and Chicoutimi in Canada? How do we customize product for a segmented market?
Third, how should western values (e.g. WTO compliance, enforcement of contract law, a human rights based human resources strategy, the issues raised by public sector actors in private market activities) be integrated into Chinese curriculums provided by non-Chinese B-Schools and private educators?
Fourth, to what extent is Chinese management education, in a manner analogous to North American universities, supposed to fill the gaps left by the narrow focus of other disciplines? To what extent is integrated knowledge the differentiated competitive advantage of B-Schools? Chinese business leaders require an understanding of global politics and global history to be effective in their longterm international dealings . Non-Chinese B-Schools need to teach Chinese history and culture if they are to produce effective business leaders dealing with China, or global history and politics if they are to create managers and investors who can function in a global economy. Similarly, one of the first requirements of Chinese B-Schools is to teach global history and international political economy in a manner that is relevant and useful to Chinese decision-makers.
These are all significant questions both of educational strategy and of the integration of China into the global economy. From this vantage point, it is useful to strategize some of the cases that could produce "courses" or "courseware" in the Chinese context. With the right design, they may also facilitate teaching "Doing Business in China" from a Canadian or other non-Chinese perspective
(i) Regional differences and their management outside of a command economy: Just as anyone teaching in Canada has to realize the different styles of management practice in southwest Ontario and British Columbia, similarly, China has regional variations. How can that be taught in a manner which facilitates the very issues of "team-building", "development of appropriate organizational cultures", and management of the strategy/organization fit which is the cornerstone of best practices B-Schools? The financial media is starting to focus on economic geography: e.g. the Pearl River "zone". Competitiveness cases have to reflect a similar regional strategic dimension. The competitiveness theme requires an analysis of regional dynamics. Case studies on the Pearl River, Anhui, could enhance the understanding of economic geography, public policies, investment strategies and their coordination the way regional studies on Rhone-Alps in France, or areas like Saskatchewan in Canada facilitate business decision-making.
(ii) A customized Chinese curriculum has to also talk about entrepreneurship. The commercialization of unique skills has always been a challenging thing to teach in a transitional economy. The most successful approaches have always focused on demonstration effects, from stories of the founding of Microsoft to stories of individual exercises in developing niches: wineries in the Republic of Georgia, or fishing cooperatives in the Baltics. While it is difficult to "teach" entrepreneurship other than by example and cases, examples and cases of successful entrepreneurial activities in transitional economies have application to China, and not just in obvious areas like Alibaba or the kinds of companies started by returning North American educated MBAs in the internet-sector.
(iii) Teaching world history and context in China: A case study on China's attempt to secure energy supplies through Gabon and Angola would reveal to Chinese MBAs the variety of perspectives on this issue. From China, it is an issue of energy security. From the perspective of the boardrooms of Shell or Chevron, it is about the structuring of the terms of longterm oil revenues while meeting expectations about environmental responsibility and sustainable development. From the perspective of the management of OPEC, it is a question of the dynamics of the international system in oil. From the perspective of an investment bank, it is about oil pricing and the impact of China's consumption pattern on oil-price stability; from the perspective of a human rights advocate in Africa, it raises the issue of the role of China in consolidating "stable" autocratic regimes without respect for domestic economic development or the advancement of the rule of law. It is difficult to imagine how effective Chinese business leaders in the future will be able to be without an understanding of these issues. The extremely useful Bader/Leveritt op-ed page piece in the Financial Times on August 16th http://www.brook.edu/views/op-ed/fleverett/20050816.htm calling for an increased Chinese role in international energy policy raises new strategic options for the decisions being made concerning China's energy security..
(iv) A customized Chinese curriculum has to build on unique case studies: Like all case studies designed for de facto executive education, new cases have to address some specific needs of the customer:
(a) the need to understand the globalization of successful companies from emerging markets and their management of investment banking relationships. Companies like Charoen Pokphand in Thailand and Samsung obviously fill that need;
(b) issues in the development of an internal science and engineering commercialization process, like the development of a biotech community around indigenous Chinese research, e.g. HD Biosciences www.hdbiosciences.com ;
(c) the utilization of Chinese-speaking global networks to facilitate the introduction of foreign investment, and for such purposes e.g. Huayuan:www.huayuan.org.
(d) the development of Chinese investment banking and fund management capabilities to facilitate Chinese overseas investment and collaboration with other partners, e.g. India, Korea, Japan and Malaysia in a different pattern of cross-border investment activities in Asia. The PetroKazakhstan case situation (www.petrokazakhstan.com) demonstrates the first India versus China bidding competition in global investment banking.
(v) Anticipating the Chinese agenda: Customized curriculum design for the Chinese market requires that there attempt to be an anticipation of issues which need to receive specific focus. The line between the requirements of top-end investment strategies and top-end executive education is always easy to blur. One is asking the same question with different time-lines. There are areas of particular significance to China in which customized teaching and analysis could facilitate strategic planning: e.g. (i) the development of a science infrastructure that can be efficiently commercialized, (ii) the strategic planning of an alternate energy industry which needs to understand the global industry structure of alternative energy approach to energy security; (iii) the role of Chinese science in assuring Chinese competitiveness. Excellent articles by Spencer Reiss in Wired on China's nuclear industry and by David Stipp in Fortune on the potential of China to compete seriously with North America and Europe in science make a good starting point for customized curriculum design.
The starting point of this note is the increased market for educational product China. What followed is intended to be a set of suggestions as to how to approach the development of original customized product that helps Canadian and other non-Chinese management educators think through the issues of how China wants to innovate and how we can appropriately be of assistance. There is much work already being done on adapting existing top-quality management education to Chinese market needs, but the opportunity to develop new case studies customized for the Chinese market remains an exciting one.
Synopsis of possible case studies based on the analysis above:
(1) Competitiveness from a regional perspective: state case studies.
(2) Entrepreneurship in emerging capitalist societies: case studies of internet entrepreneurs in China and Russia.
(3) China in the global economy: strategies for Chinese energy security from various vantage points: PetroKazakhstan, the Gulf of Guinea and Latin American OPEC members.
(4) Commercializing Chinese science: the creation of new wealth in China.
(5) The Chinese agenda for competitiveness: developing new energy sources.