China’s economic and business punch is not decreasing. However its annual rate of economic growth is, causing concern throughout world markets. Within this context, deep shifts are taking place in China’s approach to entrepreneurship. In the country’s urgently needed economic transformation, entrepreneurial spirit may play the dual role of core driving force for both business and society
An uneasy admiration
From a western point of view, China’s economic performance and development instill both a feeling of admiration, a sense of awe and, not the least, a twinge of concern. Walking through any store across the continents and you will find Chinese presence – through textiles, toys, home products and electronic goods, not to mention those products manufactured on home markets using Chinese steel and other materials.
Chinese exports to the outside world are nothing new – indeed, China has been trading with other cultures since the opening of the “Silk Road” some two hundred years BC, and most notably through exports of silk, and later porcelain, paper and tea. So why should the Chinese economy – or indeed China – be the focus of such concern today? One of the reasons is, of course, the sheer size of China in terms of its geography combined with its population. Another may be the high output and performance, coupled with longer working hours, of the Chinese workforce. And yet another may simply be the perception other developed countries have of the Chinese way of doing business.
Shaping responsible business leaders in China
Fudan School of Management, Fudan University Shanghai, a core member of the Council on Business & Society, an alliance of business schools throughout the world, finds itself at the forefront of management and entrepreneurship education in China. It is also one of Asia’s foremost advocates of blending business with a societal approach, committed to training both Chinese and international students to be the responsible leaders of tomorrow.
One of the school’s leading events, the Shanghai Chinese Entrepreneur Summit, brings together students, alumni, industry experts and policy makers with the objective of sketching out the blueprint of China’s future business community.
This year, the opening message from Xiongwen Lu, Dean of the Fudan School of Management, was an encouragement for Chinese entrepreneurs to increase their effort in sharing ideas and making greater contributions to social development. It is interesting to note that such a message comes at a time when China, like its heavyweight industrial predecessors before it – historically including the UK, USA, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea – is now moving from a status as economic giant to a mindset of how to distribute and, indeed, re-distribute the wealth that it has created.
One belt, one road – and many dimensions
Still under the impetus of 5-year plans, China’s economy is showing new trends. According to Yansheng ZHANG, the Secretary General of the Academic Committee of the National Development and Reform Commission, these trends include continuing increases in the proportion of total research and development expenditure to GDP, the proportion of service industry to GDP, and the contribution of consumption to growth. Moreover, the development of new urbanization is pushing forward transformation with the urban-rural and regional income gaps narrowing quickly. With its OBOR (One Belt, One Road) economic strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between China and other countries, it is argued that China should integrate into the world economy deeply and develop an open economy at higher levels.
Media leader and founder and CEO of the Commercial Civilization Research Center of China, Shuo QIN, believes China’s “1.0 era” is coming to an end, with the trade-driven economy in decline and China’s consumption trend shifting from worship of real estate to the pursuit of “active life”. According to him, new Chinese entrepreneurs should reinvent themselves, change cultural and organizational bureaucracy, truly connect to the demand side, and boldly shoulder responsibilities for both business and society.
Entrepreneurship in China will be shaped by factors both at home and abroad. Zhengfu SHI who heads the Academic Committee of the China Research Institute, and Chairman of Shanghai Comway Capital Group, states that there are opportunities in cutting edge science and technology innovation and entrepreneurship rarely seen in China. At the level of talent, China has a huge cross-cultural high-end group of entrepreneurs due to the country’s high-potentials studying complementary degrees in leading institutions abroad, as well as a solid pool of skilled technical workers. Support for entrepreneurship has also been transformed with today’s multilayered, quasi-market entrepreneurship fund supply system becoming increasingly mature. These factors are occurring within the country’s fairly complete industrial system equipped with world-class support industries and the fact that China represents – at least, it seems, for the next decade or more – the world’s largest market.
What a beautiful day
In an ideal world, the argument – and one which might just serve to distill some of the twinges of concern from China’s economic stable mates around the globe – would be that entrepreneurship equals innovation, which gives rise to business, which in turn promotes international exchange and contact, and which ultimately leads to understanding and common ground. In an ideal scenario, mixing this with a Chinese commitment to create and do business with a benefit for the common good – as Fudan encourages its students to do – will certainly help promote the country’s image, ties and impact across the world.
Visit the Fudan Shanghai Chinese Entrepreneur Summit page
Read about CSR in China from the GRI website
Forbes article: (A US perspective) The CSR Challenge For Companies Doing Business In China
Visit the Council on Business & Society Forums page: Energy, Healthcare, Leadership and Governance
Edited and written by Tom Gamble at the Council on Business & Society and based upon the Fudan School of Management, Fudan University Entrepreneurship Summit page
The Council on Business & Society Global Alliance is an ongoing international dialogue between six of the world’s leading business schools and an organiser of Forums focusing on issues at the crossroads of business and society – The Council Community helps bring together business leaders, academics, students and journalists from around the world. #CouncilonBusinessandSociety