Education for the Future | China Unlocked

By Wang Hai

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Professor Hu Biliang, dean of Emerging Markets Institute at Beijing Normal University delivering a speech on the 2017 graduation ceremony

“I look at the long term of this program,” explains Professor Hu Biliang his ambitions for the International Masters of Business Administration (IMBA) program of the Emerging Markets Institute (EMI). While serving as the dean of EMI at Beijing Normal University (BNU) for about seven years, Hu dedicated most of his time to “helping students establish not only business administration knowledge , but also a clear savvy about the economy and social development of China.”

After decades of rapid development and remarkable success integrating into the global economy, China is positioned to play an exemplary role for other emerging markets. Furthermore, as one of the earliest advocates of South-South Cooperation, China has always been willing to share its experience with its fellow countries. Educational cooperation represents, according to Hu, a “tremendous opportunity.”

The tremendous opportunity was first seized by BNU about seven years ago when it established China’s very first Emerging Markets Institute in 2011. For the seven years since then, EMI has been training international talent with outstanding leadership and at the same time presenting authentic images of China’s modern economy and regional development to students from around the world with hopes of them becoming politicians, experts, officials or scholars.

 

China, the “Database”

When asked about the most glaring difficulty in designing the lectures and syllabus for the one-year program, Professor Hu admits that it was never easy to keep the program standardized with other top international MBA programs while keeping it attractive and uniquely valuable. Ever the erudite educator, he listed myriad areas in which the program could be improved. Once a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, Hu is dazzlingly familiar with top-level MBA programs worldwide, which convinced him that it is crucial for local MBA programs to distinguish themselves.

That said, such colossal difficulties should be overcome by the 4-year-old program. “Probably our greatest capability is providing countless cases from China for our students to analyze, deconstruct and theorize,” Hu illustrates. “The country is truly a priceless ‘database’.”

To offer students opportunities that would otherwise never have been available, Hu and his colleagues incorporated a large amount of empirical lessons into the courses. The purpose is to help characterize the economics and social development in China. Or, in an alternative but preferred way, as Hu puts it, it’s about “getting out of the classroom and learning from real cases.”

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Some IMBA students from the class of 2017

On April 15, 2018, China Report ASEAN was invited for the fourth consecutive year to cover a field research trip to Kunshan in southeastern China’s Jiangsu Province. Each year for the past four, at least two weeks were set aside on the academic calendar for students to finish their field research tasks, according to Li Pengpeng, HR manager of EMI.

From the modern metropolis of Shanghai to Dingxi, an agricultural town in western Gansu Province, various research destinations have been introduced into the training scheme, providing students abundant opportunities for field research.

 

Academic Image of the Country

Perhaps nobody can judge the program like the students, who are selected from hundreds of applicants from Asia, Latin America, Africa and other developing countries. They come prepared with great aspirations and boatloads of motivation in tow.

“My biggest motivation to study here was seeing the economic development of China,” reveals Romtham Khumnurak, a graduate student from Thammasat University in Thailand. “I got everything I wanted after a year of studying. Not only did we learn a lot from the lectures, we also conducted extensive field research. It was exactly what I expected: learning from this country through authentic cases.”

Although most students, Romtham included, had not been to China before joining the IMBA program, some have established systematic knowledge framing of China’s economy, social development, urbanization process and poverty alleviation practice. After working for the Ministry of Commerce of Myanmar since 2006, Tin Tin Nwet describes her experience in China as an incredible and fruitful journey. “I am here because I was curious about the Belt and Road Initiative and eager to learn how it will affect China’s neighbors like Myanmar,” she says. “Bilateral relations between China and Myanmar are developing fast, so I am excited to introduce this program to my friends in Myanmar.”

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Over 120 students from about 50 countries have joined the program during the past four years. Even though some of the them came with limited knowledge of China, they still brought sophisticated inquiries to be figured out. Unlike many of his classmates, Beksultan Mametibraimov, a Kyrgyzstani alumnus of Peking University, was inspired to be more insightful when accepting the offer. He finished his masters at Peking University last year, where most of his knowledge about China was gained. “Part of my job responsibilities in Kyrgyzstan was to know about the Belt and Road Initiative, which is why I chose to study here after my 2-year master program. My country has been looking forward to developing infrastructure like railroads, highways and the energy sector. It was energizing to learn from those who have been doing this on a massive scale.”

 

Emerging Markets, Emerging Opportunities

“Leadership towards the future” is a phrase frequently heard from EMI staff, especially Professor Hu Biliang when discussing long-term expectations of alumni. “Very much alike our students, I joined a similar postgraduate program offered by the German government in 1989,” he reveals, adding that the program represented a turning point in his life. “The project, pretty much identical to our IMBA program, was specially designed for young scholars and talents from emerging market countries including China.”

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Grzegorz Witold Kołodko, former Polish Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance was invited to give a lecture to the IMBA students in 2017.

Later employed by World Bank, Societe Generale and CASS, Hu started his career as professor in development economics and global economics. He credits the German program with putting him on the track to success. Thus, Hu hopes the knowledge the students gain in China today will kindle new experiences and drive to achieve big careers helping the emerging markets from which they hail.

“Tremendous changes have taken place in our country,” Hu continues. “China is more than willing to share its experience with other emerging market countries, which is why we advocated a plan that included financial support from the Chinese government. ” According to Hu, instead of simply training talent, the program also aims to create future opportunities for China and other emerging markets.

 

Copyedited by Scott Huntsman

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