Few businesses around the world today are not directly or indirectly involved in trade with the mainland. When China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, it was already rated number six in global trade and has now moved up to number three.
Despite ongoing efforts by Beijing to cool down the supposedly "over-heated" market, its key economic indicators remain positive, and Standard and Poor's forecasts that its GDP will increase by close to 10 per cent this year. "The mainland represents enormous opportunities which every business executive should take advantage of. Refusing to do business with China is the same as closing the doors to success," says Andrew Chan, director of the Executive MBA (EMBA) Programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).
"Our EMBA programme is built on a four-dimensional model, covering China, the West, tradition and modernity," he says. "It combines the best of Chinese and Western management cultures with a mission to bring the world to China and China to the world." He adds that "modern Chinese" translates into management implications resulting from the culture and socio-economic factors prevailing today in the mainland. "Traditional Chinese" relates to the wisdom in the timeless beliefs of notable Chinese philosophers in such works as I Ching, The Art of War and The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the two Western dimensions, "Modern West" refers to contemporary theories developed in the West; "Traditional West" takes in Aesop's Fables and Greek mythology, which once exerted significant influence on Western management styles. Using these evergreen works in graduate business education is both innovative and pragmatic, says Professor Chan. The thinking methodologies, divination and leadership wisdom they contain can widely be decoded and applied to modern strategic planning and decision-making.
"The global environment is competitive and interconnected, therefore we firmly believe business executives must master these four dimensions in order to develop a realistic perspective of today's business atmosphere," Professor Chan points out. "And only by looking at things holistically can they devise strategies and action plans that can bridge China and the world. The programme also emphasises relevance in the context of Hong Kong's strategic location within China and the Asia-Pacific region. Among our other goals we hope students can apply what they have learned in real-life settings."
Tailored for future CEOs
The two-year programme was launched 14 years ago and remains the first of its kind in Hong Kong, being particularly popular with senior managers who make up 90 per cent of present-day classes. The first year provides a solid foundation in all major business functions. The second year focuses on strategies and policies. It aims to improve participants' analytical and decision-making capabilities which can help them enhance the competitive advantage of their enterprises.
"In our selection criteria we seek insightful people who have the potential to become CEOs and so be able to contribute to the development of the world," says Professor Chan.
He notes that the programme provides a cutting-edge graduate business education as well as gainful business networking opportunities. Participants get the chance to interact with all EMBA, MBA and BBA alumni as well as renowned business leaders around the world.
Another feature of the programme is that prominent leaders of the business community are invited from time to time to share their wisdom and experiences with the participants, as well as senior figures from government and non-governmental organisations who likewise contribute to the classroom activities. This is specially advantageous, says Professor Chan, because these successful leaders, many of whom are founders or top management executives of well established enterprises, exert a positive influence on the students.
Other highlights of the programme include a monthly EMBA forum, and the radio and TV programmes "Talking to CEOs" and the "New Thinking in Management" series.
Another core element of the programme is a study week outside Hong Kong, which is part of the course's global business and management field study. Students must visit various overseas cities to gain exposure to different national environments and business operations. Important business centres visited since 1995 include Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, New York, London, Frankfurt, Silicon Valley, Amsterdam, Tokyo and Osaka. Last year's location was Seoul, where the students visited several large corporations covering a wide range of industries including Hyundai Motors, HP Korea, KBS TV, SK Telecom, NHN Corp, Samsung Electronics and HSBC Korea. The visitors were also given the chance to interview senior executives of these corporations, giving them a far better grasp of individual operational methods. Following all these visits and interactions, the students designed a business plan set in the context of Seoul.
The programme employs the talents of an advisory group of distinguished business leaders, faculty members who are reputable scholars, and experts in international research. Since the students have considerable potential, these factors all combine to make it a highly successful programme. It was ranked first of all independent programmes in the Asia-Pacific region from 2003 to 2006, and first of all independent programmes in Asia from 2001 to 2006. Last year, the London Times ranked it 15th of 85 EMBA programmes across the world.