China speaks, I listen

posted in: China | 3

What are the real issues that Chinese business people are currently working on? There is only one way to find out, and that is to work with them and ask them.


So although Cambridge Judge Business School has been active in China for many years, that is exactly what we did this September, at the inaugural meeting of our Chinese Advisory Council. The Council comprises leading members of China’s business community, from the chairman of a major securities institution to the founder of a leading news and media agency – its eleven members are a perfect group to give us some insight into what is influencing business thinking right now.

Here is what they told us about where they would like support in terms of managerial development:


For example, most mobile phones are manufactured in China, but so far, technology and components still come from the US, Japan and Korea. Notwithstanding Haier, Lenovo, Huawei, Alibaba and a few others, China does not yet have many own technologies and brands.


There has been a fundamental shift in China from taxing companies on revenues to value added taxes, sparking the launch of a huge number of new companies. You can’t only teach entrepreneurship in the classroom, but with so many people engaged in entrepreneurial activity, help is needed to ensure their efforts are not wasted.

SME competitiveness and microfinance

As the emphasis shifts from state-owned enterprises to small private companies, their managerial shortcomings and lack of access to capital is becoming a crucial limitation. The members of our Chinese Advisory Council spoke of the need to find ways to open up financing to these companies – who are creating the majority of jobs, and could grow more.

Corporate ethics and governance

Chinese companies could be benefiting more from its own heritage, and in particular Confucius’s teaching as applied to corporate governance and ethics. The Council felt strongly that there should be inter-disciplinary research on this, with recommendations aimed at making Chinese business better citizens as well as more profitable.


The key to managing a successful bank is talent. Senior bankers expressed interest in establishing a leadership centre saying that this would develop their own organizations as well as young financial professionals in the country, while enabling the whole sector to become more future oriented and better able to support sustained growth and innovation.

And there you have it. My first thought was: “I recognise these issues!” Our Chinese friends and colleagues share their challenges with many of the organisations that we have worked with around the world over the years. Happily this means we have something valuable to contribute, based on our engagement with companies and on our research.

But while the fundamental issues are shared with organisations all over, we know that we cannot simply apply solutions that been developed elsewhere, we are looking forward to learning about modifications in the Chinese culture and differing economic context.

Secondly, we cannot address all of the issues at the same time because we do not have enough capacity to work with so many organisations in parallel. As we prepare to go to the Sanya Forum (this year’s theme is New Economy, New Balance), a major conference for senior business and public sector executives, we are contemplating how to best start to build our local presence and engagement. The opportunities are exciting, for impact and for learning.

Cambridge Judge Business School has been active in China for a number of years. We have worked with many leading financial institutions, government departments and technology-intensive service providers, supporting them to prepare their people for transitional challenges in innovation, HR management, leadership, and globalization, among many others.

3 Responses

  1. Dr Sepe Sehati

    “Chinese companies could be benefiting more from its own heritage, and in particular Confucius’s teaching as applied to corporate governance and ethics.”

    This is a smart observation and offers a huge potential to benefit businesses in China.

    Ancient Chinese classics and in particular the wisdom of Confucius can teach us a great deal more about business and innovation than is often recognised.

    “Revise and review the old things and then discover and invent the new things.” ~ The Analect (LunYu) Chapter 2 verse 11.

    Sepe Sehati

  2. Hongqin Li

    Dear Professor Loch, it is very interesting to read your blog related to Chinese business management. As my PhD project focuses on looking at the leadership of SMEs (micro, small and medium) in Shanghai area, China, my research findings seemingly reveal some deviating voices from your blog as follows, if you don’t mind.
    – Entrepreneurship
    One of my research objectives is to investigate the influence of institutional factors. When I asked the entrepreneurs about the impact of Chinese government policies by interviews, the entrepreneurs of micro firms thought there was a very limiting influence on their businesses. However, those of small and medium businesses suggested the value-added taxes might benefit large organisations but had a quite negative impact on their profits.
    – ‘SME competitiveness and microfinance’ and ‘leadership’
    Regarding the argument that ‘the key to managing a successful bank is talent,’ it might be correct in the bank industry. However, contributing successful leadership to talent might be discouraging for the majority, as I would think there are not so many talents. In contrast, my research findings reveal that knowledge is important, particularly tacit knowledge. And the distinctive features of the Chinese entrepreneurs are that they emphasized the importance of exploring and exploiting knowledge by learning (particularly by extensive reading) and self-reflection . However, there lacks such learning systems/organizations as British LEAD programme in China to guide the entrepreneurs to develop and enhance their leadership capabilities while furthering their business growth.
    – Corporate ethics and governance
    Despite the value of Confucius’ s teachings, Laozi’s Taoist teachings are equally valuable. Particularly to cope with the complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity and nascence imbued with SMEs, my research indicates that Laozi’s Wu Wei spirit is the heart of entrepreneurial leadership practice.


  3. anjana

    Hello Professor

    I am also started small SME in India and i want to improve my product with quality out put so if you can help me out then it is good for my business. i want to compete with chines business.

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