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First Cambridge-China Forum explores the challenges facing Chinese private enterprise

beijing after sunsetThe importance of understanding China and its future from a Chinese perspective was the emerging theme from the Cambridge-Beijing Forum held this week in Beijing.

Understanding the unique opportunities and challenges of 21st century China, and its approach to private enterprise, can only be achieved by engaging with those in China who are leading the charge in entrepreneurship, business and public policy, was the clear message.

The Forum, entitled ‘Realising the Chinese Dream’, was convened to explore the challenges China faces in fully embracing and nurturing private enterprise – a key aspiration emerging from the Chinese Government’s Third Plenum last November.

Among the wide range of ideas discussed by academics from the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and business people and policy-makers from China were:

  • Private enterprise: how to put in place the right conditions to create more successful enterprise zones like Shenzhen and Cambridge
  • Government: the role of local government in supporting entrepreneurs, financiers and innovators and the role of central government in limiting risk
  • Financial deregulation: the benefits but also the downsides of financial deregulation of Chinese banks, downsides which include the inevitability of crashes, the power of private banks, bankers’ potential bad behaviour
  • Environment: China’s environmental impact and the need for a mix of government regulation, big sectors’ willingness to change and changes in consumer behaviour (e.g. the construction industry needs to embrace new techniques to reduce usage of natural resources but consumers need to be willing to pay more for sustainable construction)
  • Education: the willingness for Cambridge and China to listen and learn from each other, to keep up dialogue and relish the exchange and collision of ideas; the spirit of learning as an important source of innovation
  • Healthcare: the expansion of large hospitals; the lack of comprehensive medical insurance hindering access to healthcare in China; the possibility that a big pharma company could relocate its global HQ to China because of the size of the domestic market and the innovativeness of Chinese talent
  • Migration: the benefits of multiculturalism in cities such as Shenzhen and Cambridge in terms of nurturing a diversity that encourages creativity and innovation
  • Thinking big: the appetite for visionary projects such as turning some of China’s 27 per cent desert into farmland
Mr Wang Shi

Mr Wang Shi

Keynote speakers from China included entrepreneurs Wang Shi (China Vanke) and Xu Shaochun (Kingdee International Software Group), Ma Weihua (Chairman of Wing Lung Bank) and Jie Tang (Vice Mayor of Shenzhen Municipal Government).

Cambridge Judge Business School faculty Michael Kitson, Simon Taylor and Simon Learmount spoke on innovation systems, competitiveness at a global macro-economic level, the evolution of financial markets as they relate to the Chinese market and the function of business in the development of economies and society. The Forum was chaired by media entrepreneur and talk show hostess Yang Lan. Around 150 attended, with hundreds more participating through live streaming.

Forum organiser and Director of the Cambridge MBA and Executive MBA, Dr Simon Learmount, said:

We were delighted to hold our first Cambridge-Beijing Forum among so many friends this week and we are determined to make this the start of a long and fruitful partnership. Cambridge and Shenzhen, in particular, are so similar and have so much to learn from each other that it will benefit both cities to work together for the good of both the Chinese and UK economies. Wang Shi said that ‘understanding China via a Chinese perspective is the distinguishing characteristic of Cambridge Judge’ and we intend to make this the guiding principle of our relationship.

Cambridge Judge Business School also formally announced its official Chinese name – 剑桥嘉治商学院 – at the Forum, after a consultation process that included senior academics within the University of Cambridge, a distinguished former member of the Cambridge Judge Advisory Board and alumnus of the University, and Chinese-speaking colleagues and alumni.