China has a population of nearly 1.4 billion, of which 695 million are mobile internet users. 25% of unicorns – startups valued at over $1 billion – are native Chinese.
“China is the number one growth opportunity globally,” says Dr Xiang Bing, the founding dean at Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB). “But Chinese companies tend to be good imitators rather than innovators. In the future, innovation will become more and more important.”
While China offers UK entrepreneurs massive potential for growth, the challenges - around access to the market, local partners, funding, as well as the language and cultural barriers - are clear. CKGSB’s 14-month, full-time MBA program is helping ambitious professionals overcome the hurdles and break into the lucrative Chinese market.
“We provide the kind of in-depth knowledge that you can’t find at any other business school in China,” says Ji Bo, CKGSB’s chief representative in Europe.
Indeed, CKGSB boasts a network of over 10,000 high-level alumni. More than half of them are CEOs or chairmen of companies in China, with that select group alone accounting for over 16% of China’s GDP.
CKGSB’s 45 full-time resident professors share over 70 internationally-recognized academic awards between them.
“We recruit faculty from the world’s leading institutions,” Ji Bo continues. “They are top scholars in their fields, they have a global perspective, and they really bring insight to startups and entrepreneurs.”
Rory Bate-Williams is a serial entrepreneur from the UK. He’s just founded a new messaging app which lets users share Snapchat-type images and videos in WhatsApp-type groups.
In 2013, he relocated thousands of miles away for an MBA at CKGSB. Why? “Business is all about people,” he says. “I knew that access to CKGSB’s faculty, and unparalleled alumni network, would give me a head start in setting up business in China.”
Brexit has only encouraged the strengthening of ties between the UK and China. The local government of Shenzhen – a vibrant startup hub in southeastern China – has an office in Canary Wharf, at the heart of London’s financial district.
BusinessBecause caught up with both Ji Bo and Rory at a CKGSB event there, held in conjunction with leading European tech startup accelerator Level 39 and China-focused venture capital firm Silk Ventures.
“China is the new blue ocean for global startups,” says Ji Bo. “The Chinese want to try new things. There’s a thirst for global technologies. And China is full of wealthy, risk-taking investors. A UK company worth $100,000 can be worth $1 million in China.”
What advice does he have for UK entrepreneurs wanting to make it big in China? “Be open-minded,” he says. “Look at the opportunities that China can offer.
“Attitude makes a huge difference. You need to be able to embrace a different culture and work with a totally different kind of people, whether they’re investors, customers, or potential partners.
“Do not presume China revolves around your company,” he continues. “You have to make the change. Don’t apply the same frameworks you use in the US or the UK to China.”
CKGSB’s MBA class is 28% international. 50% of MBA students are women. It’s a global school, with offices in London, Hong Kong, and New York. 100% of CKGSB MBAs land jobs within six months of graduation.
“In terms of access to China, CKGSB opens doors for you,” Rory explains. “Whenever I need help in China, I reach out to the school and I’m connected to relevant alumni almost immediately.
“Plus, western companies are realizing that the future of business is in China. They highly value people that have experience, understanding, and contacts on the ground.”
Wherever they’re from and whatever their career goals, CKGSB MBA students benefit from a forward-looking international business school with a unique connection to the Chinese elite.
“The MBA market in China is going to be huge,” says Ji Bo. “We want to be a business school not just for China, but for the world.”