Blockchain in China is taking off. From the dark web recesses of early-bitcoin, blockchain has hit the mainstream, becoming the founding technology for a whole host of cryptocurrencies and disruptive business models.
According to the World Economic Forum, 2017 saw a 30-fold increase in blockchain-based cryptocurrency global market capitalization.
Bank of China partnered with tech giant Tencent to trial blockchain technology in financial applications. In April 2017, Alibaba established China’s first blockchain industrial zone—Blockchain Valley—at its Hangzhou HQ.
With this in mind, China’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business is launching a new MBA elective in financial technology—fintech—this year, becoming the latest school to jump on the blockchain bandwagon.
The new MBA elective will combine behind-the-scenes company visits with cutting-edge classroom-based teaching—and bring a roster of expert industry practitioners, scientists, and b-school professors together—to immerse students in China’s booming blockchain scene.
“Even the traditional financial industry is doing business in blockchain,” Ou-Yang Hui, distinguished chair professor of finance and associate dean of the CKGSB MBA, explains. “If our students want to get a job at a leading corporation, they need to know about blockchain.
“But, more and more, employers don’t just want a basic understanding of what blockchain is,” he continues. “They want students who have an understanding of the technology itself—that’s why we invite scientists into the class.”
And that’s why CKGSB’s latest institutional partnerships are with engineering schools—Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering, UC Berkeley College of Engineering, and Technion in Israel—rather than business schools.
MBA students at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business will dive deeper, into the practical application of blockchain, spending two-to-three intensive days visiting leading finance firms to learn how blockchain is actually used in the industry today.
What’s the future for blockchain in China? Hui thinks blockchain’s potential lies with big corporations rather than startups.
Many of those are led by CKGSB alums. Alibaba founder Jack Ma is a CKGSB alum. Alibaba Group senior executives—Zeng Ming and Chen Long—are former professors at the school. CKGSB’s CEO and chairman-level alumni collectively lead one fifth of China’s most valuable brands
During the 14-month, English-language MBA program, students gain access to the Chinese business elite. They’re paired with executive-level mentors; leading figures from an industry of their choice.
“I would say it’s almost impossible for an international student to find a job in China without going through an MBA,” says Hui. “Guanxi—or personal connections—is a very important concept in China, and CKGSB has a lot of connections.”
Large MBA employers in China receive thousands of resumes each year. Even if a candidate stands out, without guanxi there’s a certain lack of trust.
Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business helps bridge the guanxi gap. Companies interested in a candidate with CKGSB on their resume will contact the school’s careers department to validate the application. Ultimately, the school’s connections will make it easier for MBA students to land jobs in the blockchain space.
“We help on the back-end,” says Alan Chen, the CKGSB MBA’s new director. “There’s a unique culture in China. What we’ve built is a high level of trust with leading employers.”