Master of Belt Administration? Chinese biz school offers China Ready mini MBA

Beijing at night (Chaoyang)

With consternation growing over things like Brexit and the economy, people are looking at the far reaches of the globe for opportunities, such as China.

China has been grabbing the world’s attention these past few months through its sprawling Belt and Road Initiative, record-busting Singles Day, tech giants that are now bigger than Facebook and takeover of famous football clubs, such as continental giants AC Milan Reading FC.

But while tempting to go in all guns blazing, it’s no walk in the gōngyuán – take it from me. Western methods are to be left behind in the airport lounge (and while you’re at it, you can leave behind weird old-school things like paper money too).

Go in with an air of hubris and you will probably fail miserably (you can console yourself with KTV and one of those baijiu bottles from FamilyMart).

Alternatively you can make an effort to understand the culture, language and body language – because, quite honestly, there are languages other than English in the world…right?

The people I know who are successful in their China dealings – and I mean genuinely successful rather than blah-blah-on-LinkedIn-successful – speak the language well and fit in like a Chinese glove puppet.

But for those of you in a hurry – and why not, we do live in a wickedly fast world these days – there is a new China Mini EMBA+ programme launching in March 2018.

Offered by the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), the six-month programme will provide an insight into conducting business in China, from how to negotiate to how to build a business presence.

The programme will commence over two days in London (Module 1) with the theme of understanding China’s next move (i.e. China on the world stage).

Then the fun begins, I suppose, with five days in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen in April 2018 to master business fundamentals (Module 2).

The programme concludes over two days in Paris in June 2018 with a focus on China careers (Module 3).

And after that, who knows?

Alumni according to the website include people like Jack Ma of Alibaba, and he has done alright (though he was probably doing ok enough anyway).

Belt and Road promises to open up Asia like never before

Bus in Myanmar

Other than the takeover of Reading FC by the Dai siblings, the big announcement coming out of China this month that will change the world as we know it was the 900 billion dollar “One Belt, One Road” project.

Sounding like a line from a syrupy U2 song, One Belt, One Road refers to a Chinese initiative of unprecedented scale that will see more than 60 countries connected through high-speed rail, bridges, harbours, tunnels, airports and goodness knows what else in the next 5 years…hyperloops and spaceports maybe. Hence “Belt” and “Road” (though confusingly the “Road” is the sea – the so-called Maritime Silk Road). As the professional world loves acronyms, One Belt, One Road is also known as OBOR, not to be mistaken for something cobbled together by the banking sector.

While the name doesn’t translate well into English, OBOR has a clear enough vision and even a template from the past: the ancient Silk Road that connected China with Europe, when bearded traders slugged over mountains with camels and spices, and told fantastic tales.

Marco Polo was a long time ago, of course, and today’s Central Asian countries, the “stans” from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan, are relatively unknown to travellers even through they account for a huge chunk of the globe.

Gleaming new highways built with OBOR money might change that, in time helping to make those flyover states between East and West even more appealing destinations. If anything, that midlife London-Kathmandu bike trip should be a less arduous experience.

Railways are shrinking the map further. Earlier this year, the first ever direct train service from China to the UK arrived in Barking after 17 days, passing through 10 countries on a 7,456 mile trip. This was just a freight service., however, and there’s no sign of a commercial service any time soon, which is perhaps just as well: just imagine trying to buy a ticket to China from a train station machine (it’s hard enough finding the right fare from Reading to Oxford).

Commercial bullet train services will, however, string together countries in Southeast Asia. Despite the ubiquity of today’s low-cost airlines, Southeast Asia is not an easy region to navigate.

OBOR will connect Jakarta to Bandung, Indonesia’s third biggest city and creative capital, through a high-speed rail project opening in 2019. More spectacular still, a high-speed line will connect Singapore with Kunming in southern China (Singapore Kunming Rail Link, “SKRL”), through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

The 3,000km project will include sections such as Singapore – Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur – Bangkok. SKRL will, in a sense, “unlock” cities along its route – like the Laotian capital Vientiane – making them more accessible and propelling them into the future. Backpacking through Mekong countries will never be the same again.

Of course, a lot of this might not happen. The world is complicated enough and fraught with uncertainty. But if there is one thing we all need right now, it’s optimism. And OBOR optimism doesn’t get bouncier than this: