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Business lessons from China

18 July 2018

The article at a glance

A new Cambridge Centre for Chinese Management launches at Cambridge Judge Business School to study world-beating Chinese firms and what the West …

A new Cambridge Centre for Chinese Management launches at Cambridge Judge Business School to study world-beating Chinese firms and what the West can learn from them.

A new Cambridge Centre for Chinese Management (CCCM) has launched at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School to study the growth and success of world-beating Chinese firms such as Huawei, Alibaba and Tencent, the business school announced today (18 July).

Professor Peter Williamson
Professor Peter Williamson

The Centre will look at the “uniquely Chinese business phenomena” that has generated business theories that companies around the world can learn from. The Centre will hold an official launch event in Shenzhen, China, on 31 August.

“In the past three decades, Chinese firms have been actively learning from their more advanced western counterparts,” said Professor Peter Williamson, a co-Director of CCCM at the business school, but a growing number of Chinese firms have recently “succeeded in catching up or even surpassing their western ‘teachers’. Most of these successful Chinese firms have developed management practices which are significantly different from that of the western firms.”

Among lessons the rest of the world can now learn from China are speed, flexibility and customer-centricity, said Dr Eden Yin, University Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Cambridge Judge and co-Director of the new CCCM. “The Centre will look at what other companies can learn from successful Chinese firms, but also what the rest of the world can do to prepare for this competition.”

Eden Yin
Dr Eden Yin

The new Centre will differentiate itself from other research institutions that look at China by making world-class academic research its primary focus, rather than practice-oriented initiatives.

Among other projects, the new Centre aims to produce a “Chinese Enterprise Globalisation Index” that looks at how Chinese companies perform globally; publish in top academic journals on all aspects of Chinese management; develop a comprehensive database on leading Chinese firms; and work with PhD graduates around the world specialising in Chinese management.

The Centre also plans two major conferences a year focusing on Chinese management research and practice, in China and Cambridge, and will organise two executive education courses at Cambridge Judge – on globalisation strategies for Chinese enterprises, and on developing winning strategies for Chinese markets. The CCCM will also engage with industry and policymakers through visitor and speaker events and a series of White Papers on subjects such as Chinese innovation and the development of Chinese private enterprise.

The new Centre will be led by four co-Directors: Christoph Loch, Dean of Cambridge Judge Business School; Tao Tian, senior advisor to Huawei Technologies; Peter Williamson, Honorary Professor of International Management at Cambridge Judge; and Eden Yin, University Senior Lecturer at Cambridge Judge. Williamson, Yin and Tian are currently writing a book about Huawei’s strategy that looks at how Huawei has successfully established itself as a global player. Tao and Yin were among co-authors of a recent Harvard Business School case study entitled “Huawei: How Can We Lead the Way?”

Besides focusing on lessons from large Chinese firms such as Huawei, Lenovo, Alibaba, DJI, Haier and JD, the Centre will also look at relatively smaller sector-changing companies – the “hidden champions” from China which dominate certain market niches, such as ZPMC which leads the world in the making of port cranes.

“We also want to document the path of private Chinese companies over the last 30 years,” says Yin. “A significant part of the Chinese economy is now private, and it now contributes more than 60 per cent of China’s GDP growth and brings in over half of China’s fiscal revenue. So this is a rich area for documentation as we look at the unique management and institutional innovations pursued by Chinese companies.”