Meet the 'Harvard Business School of China'

@FortuneMagazine May 22, 2012: 6:40 AM ET
Hongbin Cai?s Guanghua School of Management boasts students and faculty who have studied around the world.

Hongbin Cai's Guanghua School of Management boasts students and faculty who have studied around the world.

FORTUNE -- The Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing is one of China's most selective business schools. Its foundations were laid in 1985 when the university set up a department of economic management and a center of management science. Today Guanghua has 3,700 students and 110 full-time faculty, about two-thirds of whom have Ph.D.s from the U.S. or Europe. The dean of the school, Hongbin Cai (pronounced HONG-bin tsigh), has a Stanford Ph.D. and taught at UCLA. He recently sat down with Fortune's managing editor in Beijing. Here are excerpts from their conversation.

Dean Cai, why is the school so new?

Chinese economic reforms started in 1978. Before that we were a central-planning economy, so there's no business -- and no business school!

Is an MBA from Guanghua the same as an MBA from a U.S. business school?

They are very similar. Our MBA program is two years, and we typically require at least two years of work experience before you can participate in the program. We also have part-time MBA programs, executive MBAs, and a Ph.D. program. Our students come mostly from mainland China, but we have them from about 50 countries overall, including the U.S.

What kinds of jobs do they get?

In the private sector we are strong in finance. They get jobs at Deutsche Bank (DB), Merrill Lynch, and Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) here and abroad. Some go to work for state-owned enterprises. A small number go into government service or to nonprofit organizations.

Some have called your school the Harvard Business School of China. Is that a fair comparison?

We try to learn from the best practices around the world. Harvard uses case studies, which we think is very important for business education. Over the past 10 years, we have sent more than 30 faculty members to participate in the Harvard Business School's case method development programs. They learn the case method, and they come back to develop cases on Chinese firms and then teach those cases in classrooms.

Do you have relationships with schools outside China?

We have exchange programs with more than 90 business schools around the world. We also have strategic partnerships with some top business schools in the U.S., such as joint research programs for our faculty members with the Kellogg School of Management and Wharton.

A big question right now about your economy is, Can China innovate? What do you think?

The model of development in the past 30 years cannot continue forever, meaning "made in China" based on low cost and without regard to the environment or other social impacts of growth. So the country is moving from "made in China" to "invented in China." I think that is beginning to happen as the government has put more resources and has better policies in promoting innovation. Here, we're actually in the center of Zhongguancun Science Park, which is part of a national strategy to promote innovation. Last year we set up the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This university has very good science programs, and the students tend to be more independent, so it has produced probably the most entrepreneurs in China. We also try to learn from the best practices. For example, Stanford Business School has been a pioneer in innovation and entrepreneurship in education. We've been talking about possible collaboration with them and with some other business schools very good in this area.

This story is from the May 21, 2012 issue of Fortune. To top of page

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