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Academics learning lessons from successful Chinese enterprises

By CECILY LIU | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-10-06 18:14

Academics learning lessons from successful Chinese enterprises

Eric Thun, a professor at Oxford University, teaches EMBA students about China. [Photot/China Daily]

Professors from leading Western business schools are increasingly using Chinese companies for their written case studies, as the businesses have garnered global attention because of their unprecedented growth levels and as they have become dominant players in their fields.

Big names, including Alibaba, Xiaomi, WeChat, and Didi-the Chinese-equivalents of Amazon, Apple, WhatsApp and Uber-are increasingly quoted and scrutinized in top business school journals and described to students around the world.

"I find it interesting to analyze innovative Chinese companies like Xiaomi as they champion new business models," said Robert Burgelman, a professor of management at Stanford Graduate School of Business."It is also interesting to research how some Chinese companies first achieve scale in their huge domestic market, and how they might build on the advantages of achieving that level of scale to gain competitive advantage in competing abroad."

In a business case Burgelman co-wrote with colleagues about Xiaomi, he closely analyzed the Chinese smartphone maker's incredible journey- it was valued at more than $10 billion three years after it was set up in 2010, a valuation that was almost twice that of Black-Berry at the time.

Chinese companies did not have such a strong presence on the syllabuses of Western business schools in past decades.

Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School led the construction in 2013 of a China-focused MBA case study platform in collaboration with 13 MBA schools globally. It has now officially accepted more than 500 cases.

Harvard Business School's China center in Shanghai, which opened in 2010, now extensively supports the university's top researchers in conducting China-focused research and case study development.

New York University Stern School of Business has established a China Initiative to help grow China-focused research and discussions, and facilitate China-related discussions between the university's faculty and other academics, students, alumni, and the wider local intellectual community.

Jennifer Carpenter, an associate professor of finance at NYU Stern, started the initiative. She said studying China's businesses is incredibly challenging and rewarding because it requires academics to engage with facts and data through a completely different perspective.

"China is often hard to understand because it's a totally different system. You cannot run China data through a US model," Carpenter said.

Historically, most of the academic theories taught at business schools have been US-centric. Now, the different economic growth model and Chinese businesses' innovation strategies are prompting scholars to question their inherent assumptions and find alternative approaches, Carpenter said.

Her research delves deep into China's financial system's controlled process of reform and opening-up, and how that influences China's stock market, capital market, and financial regulations.

"Because China is very different from the US, it prompted me to question why is the US capital market structured the way it is, hence studying China also allowed me to understand the US better."

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