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Vice President & Dean Ding Yuan: CEIBS on Frontlines of BRI

Volume 4, 2017

“CEIBS, itself a result of cooperation, openness, interaction between Europe and China, is on the frontlines making contributions to the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).

Five major fields have been identified for the BRI. The first is policy coordination. The second is infrastructure connectivity. The third is trade and investment. The fourth is financial integration. The last – which we take most to heart – is cultural exchange.

As a school, a cultural and educational institution, one would think that we’d contribute most to the fifth pillar of this initiative. But the first four pillars also rely on people, so that’s why our mission is to train and develop talented professionals that can help build and contribute to these projects.

[Former Prime Minister of France Jean-Pierre] Raffarin just summed up, in his speech, three main ways in which China contributes to the BRI: facilitating commerce and investment, providing infrastructure (roads, railroads, ports, airports, telecommunication networks, etc.) and lastly and most importantly promoting cultural exchange. As Mr Raffarin stressed, multipartite, inclusive projects are most important. The BRI will lead to a reduction in transaction costs everywhere, thanks to tangible and intangible infrastructural projects, standardisation of services and the potential opening of new markets.

As you know, there were waves of construction in remote locations in Central Asia and Africa during colonisation and during the Soviet Union era. Their goal was simple then: create an efficient, direct connection between coloniser and those being colonised. But when the Chinese came, they used a combination of logic and integration to develop a unified market. We can see examples of that in the railroad projects in Nairobi and Mombasa, in Kenya. When you look at the projects supported by China, the ultimate goal is to create a high-speed railroad network for all of East and Central Africa. So there’s a paradigm shift. And once those links, those relationships have been created, flows of capital and goods – but also flows of talent – appear. We are very confident that [the impressive economic growth that] happened in China in the last 30 years will be replicated in these new territories.

So how can CEIBS, as a school, contribute to these fields? We have identified a few ways.

The first contribution, the most important, is the development of talented professionals for globalisation – I’ll explore this point in more detail later on.

The second contribution I’d like to talk about is how we can spread knowledge in the world, and in China.

The third contribution is creating high-impact knowledge.

The last contribution has to do with support: how to support our alumni companies in their efforts to go global, but above all else how to create win-win projects, the likes of which [former French Prime Minister] Dominique de Villepin talked about [at an event hosted by CEIBS Alumni International Chapter]. The keys to success, the preconditions required in these collaborations are to promote win-win projects.

Talent development

As for the first contribution, how CEIBS develops talented professionals, we have five locations throughout China, Africa and Europe. Through these five locations, we have created a network of cultural knowledge exchange.

In terms of our programme-specific efforts, we have also tried to create an even more inclusive MBA programme by lowering the financial barrier for our students – from all nationalities – by providing access to loans with lower rates. As of today, more than 90% of our MBA students have received financial aid from the school. We also developed a Global EMBA programme which is now ranked 14th globally, and we’re confident it can go even higher. It has become one of the school’s flagship programmes. Now our slogan is to develop talents in the whole world, with China. For example we know that there are various fields that the Chinese are really interested in: brand management, service excellence, industry 4.0, innovation, sport, leisure, etc. All are fields that are crucial to the development of, and changes in, China’s growth paradigm.

Looking beyond China, we have developed study trips using our base in Zurich to reach towards France, Italy, Germany and Spain. As Jean-Pierre [Raffarin] mentioned, this is a major opportunity to connect Europe, Asia and Africa. In 2016, we created a four-module programme in four African countries to train Chinese expatriates based in Africa, along with African executives. The African executives are exempt from tuition fees, and this has become a flagship programme [that shows how CEIBS practices] social responsibility in Africa. Meanwhile, for the last five years we have also provided the Women Entrepreneurship & Leadership for Africa Programme (WELA). Thanks to partnerships with Moroccan schools and the African Development Bank Group, this year we were able to extend the programme across the entire continent, from Morocco to South Africa. Next June, 60 women from WELA will come to Shanghai for 12 days to learn from and engage with our teachers and also with former female students who are now business leaders themselves.

Knowledge dissemination

Our second contribution is the dissemination of knowledge. We’ve opened and maintained channels in five European cities to develop exchanges and spread the knowledge we have acquired on China and Sino-European cooperation. We’ve been to Paris, London, Munich, Zurich, and Warsaw this year and there was amazing coverage both in European and Chinese media.

At every step of the way we welcome Chinese entrepreneurs, leaders and companies to engage with European entrepreneurs and partners in a variety of fields. This year we succeeded in creating relationships between European and Chinese entrepreneurs in the health industry.

[CEIBS President] Pedro [Nueno], other colleagues and I also set up conferences in Africa and we welcomed diplomatic dignitaries with whom we discussed the BRI as well as Africa-China relations.

On our Shanghai campus, we carried on with our series of discussions with high-level executives. These are both political personalities – like Jean-Pierre Raffarin or Dominique de Villepin, who was here five days ago; or Jan Kohout, the former Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of the Czech Republic, who we’ll host next week – and company executives. The FedEx CEO was here last month to talk about the BRI and how FedEx, as an American company, benefited from and developed its business in Africa thanks to the China-led project.

We also reached other European and American countries through offering professorial training of our case studies.

Knowledge creation

Knowledge creation is also an important contribution for CEIBS. We published papers and books related to very important themes such as Market Integration in the BRI, as well as a series of case studies that offer a Chinese perspective on European practices and business activities, based on Swiss, French and German companies.

This year, we’ve also created a research centre thanks to the support of the Sino-CEE Fund, managed by our Adjunct Professor Jiang Jiangqing, with the unwavering support of the EFMD, notably CEO Eric Cornuel who is here with us. We succeeded in creating a research network with five business schools in five countries.

All this stimulates exchanges, openness, multipartite interaction.

Support to alumni companies

I’m going to give three examples of CEIBS’ impact on the success of win-win projects between Chinese and European companies:

My first example is Jinsheng Group, whose CEO and Founder Pan Xueping did our EMBA programme and is now a major player in the high-end manufacturing industry. In twelve years, through various M&As, he created an empire that covers 35 countries, with 14,000 employees. Two of the most notable M&As were the acquisition of the first Swiss-German textile machinery company and a joint venture with the Stuttgart-based leader of vertical machine tools. The company succeeded in bringing European technologies to develop the Chinese market, with European partners. Today, the vice chairman is still German with many other Swiss and German executives. The companies worked hand in hand, with a culture of partnership, to upgrade the textile industry in China, especially in Xinjiang province, but also in Uzbekistan, with huge projects related to treating cotton. It’s an inspirational example. The company also increased its financial value since the acquisition: its market capitalisation increased four times over the last three years.

A second interesting example is Luo Fei, a former EMBA student from our Shenzhen class, who is now chairman of our Guangzhou Alumni Chapter. The Biostime Company (now called H&H), listed in Hong Kong, cooperated with a French dairy cooperative in Normandy, Isigny Sainte Mère. Thanks to its 20% equity share, Biostime was able to secure 50,000 tonnes of milk powder for Chinese babies. He recently told me he was renegotiating with Isigny Sainte Mère to signficantly increase the volume through a new investment project.

The third example is Manwah Group, another company of a former student, and also listed in Hong Kong. It announced, at the beginning of 2017, the acquisition of 50% of a Polish company – created by  French nationals – to develop the sale of Scandinavian designer furniture in China for the Chinese middle class.

The school is providing support behind the scenes in all these initiatives, actively participating as a consultant but also as a source of knowledge. In return, the first and third companies mentioned financed the acquisition and establishment of our Zurich campus. The first and second financed our research centre on Chinese companies’ globalisation process.

These are just some of the ways that CEIBS has been integrally involved in supporting the BRI. We will continue to provide strong support in the years ahead.”