China’s Cheung Kong is Coming to America

It’s common knowledge that American business schools, ranging from heavyweight Harvard to the lesser known W.P Carey School at Arizona State University, are bringing their brands and Western business education models to China, where top executives will pay premium prices. But China’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) is something of a B-school salmon: The institution is going against the eastward tide to establish a series of programs, including executive education, events for top business professionals, and open-enrollment courses, in the U.S.

Sun Baohong, CKGSB’s associate dean of global programs, says the mission behind the westward move is to create a platform where top executives from China and the U.S. can connect and coexist. The school has already started breaking ground on collaborative environments. In September, CKGSB convened a panel of U.S. and Chinese business leaders and philanthropists in Beijing; two months later, the university co-hosted a summit for executive leaders in New York titled “The Chinese Dream and the American Dream” focused on promoting mutual economic growth.

Sun Baohong is CKGSB's associate dean of global programs

Sun Baohong is CKGSB’s associate dean of global programs

In November, CKGSB appointed Gregory Marchi as chief representative of CKGSB Americas. Marchi joined the B-school from his former role as managing director of Duke Corporate Education, a provider of non-degree training, where he spent more than a decade. Marchi has been tasked with energizing the Chinese school’s presence in the U.S. While his previous experience extends to Europe and Asia, there’s little on his resume to indicate that he’s well-versed in Chinese affairs. However, Sun says the school held out several years for the right person, and Marchi is the man for the job. “He’s very entrepreneurial and he will take some risks,” she explains. “For a school as young as CKGSB, building brand is still a challenge so we need somebody who’s more entrepreneurial.”

Next year, the school will announce a board to oversee the U.S. programs. By 2015, CKGSB aims to have an executive MBA offering on the table. Rather than competing in an over-saturated U.S. executive MBA market, Sun says their program will focus on an underserved segment that includes multinational decision makers and SMB leaders eyeing expansion in China. They’re also targeting a new market–the progeny of China’s wealthy business elites, who are expected to takeover their family businesses and secure western education without losing their edge in Asia.

Sun contends that CKGSB’s content will differ from American executive MBA offerings. “For many U.S. schools, their goal is to export their knowledge and export their degree, they don’t modify the content that much,” she says. “What we are doing here is completely different. It’s the first time in 200 years that knowledge will be flowing from the East to the West …. we deliver knowledge that we have to develop, it’s not in any of the textbooks.” CKGSB’s research-oriented focus, deep insights into Chinese business and culture, and experienced faculty can actually complement U.S. programs, Sun adds.

The move may go against the current education trends, but CKGSB isn’t exactly your average B-school. It is mainland China’s first independent and non-profit business school. Founded roughly 11 years ago, the institution is still the new kid on the block. But it’s quickly making a name for itself. The top-notch, full-time faculty spend much of their time researching and developing insights, case studies, and curriculum around China’s relatively new status as an economic powerhouse.

The school boasts an impressive roster of 6,000 alumni: nearly 42% hold a chairman/chairwoman or CEO position. Their companies combined generated $1 trillion in revenue last year, roughly 12.5% of China’s GDP. “These are not the typical EMBA students in the U.S. where they are looking to change jobs or be promoted,” points out Sun. “They are already successful, so they’re going back to school to learn something else … We need to bring additional value to these people, so we have to be more innovative in the curriculum and teach them about the intersection of business and politics, sustainability, social responsibility, and inclusive growth.”

DON’T MISS: Harvard Doing Six Exec Ed Courses in China or UNC’s New EMBA With Tsinghua or Chinese Executives Turn West for EMBAs

  • Defies Imagination

    Though Sun Baohong is a fine professor with a good track record at Tepper, anyone who knows CK in China knows that it’s pretty much a smoke and mirrors operation that is built around the old-boys club of its EMBA program. The school “buys” prestige by paying for Exec Ed programs from top Western schools, which it then “sells” in its marketing materials as partnerships. It’s prestige by association. Managerially, it’s a classic Chinese operation (in the negative sense of the word). The school has the resources to pay people well, particularly Westerners, but uses them as window dressing, telling them that they should keep their heads down and not make changes. Will be interesting to see how many of the NY staff stick it out beyond a year.