Corporate China looks to Australia for business insights

Chinese businesses are turning to Australia in the hope of gaining entrepreneurial skills and a level of corporate sophistication before tackling the larger European and North American markets, according to a leading China scholar at the University of Sydney Business School.

The School’s Professor of Chinese Business and Management, Dr Hans Hendrischke, and lecturer Dr Wei Li, recently led a group of 24 MBA students to China where they worked as consultants to top tier corporations facing “significant strategic challenges”.

“It is now clear that many Chinese companies see Australia as a great deal more than a supplier of raw materials,” Professor Hendrischke said. “They now want to learn from our sophisticated corporate and legal structures, as well as our well-developed entrepreneurial culture.”

“In particular, they are keen to understand and take advantage of the link between university education in Australia and vocational training,” he said.

Divided into teams of four, the MBA students worked at a senior level with large Chinese companies in sectors ranging from heavy engineering to manufacturing, real estate and renewable energy.

The companies included China's leading real estate developer, Poly Real Estate; Shanghai ZPMC, a manufacturer of ports equipment; CHINT Group, one of China's most entrepreneurial private energy companies; Victory Precision, a rapidly expanding producer of smart manufacturing equipment; and welding company Tayor which see opportunities in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

While many universities offer programs that focus on “how to do business in China”, Professor Hendrischke says the Sydney teams were engaged with Chinese companies at a senior executive level in a search for strategic solutions to long term challenges.

“An engineering firm turned to us for insights into vocational training issues related to plant automation while a real estate firm was keen to take advantage of our legal expertise,” said Professor Hendrischke. “This is a highly sophisticated and absolutely unique MBA program.”

He went on to say that the University of Sydney Business School is now recognised for its willingness to engage with China and that this is leading to a degree of enthusiasm amongst Chinese corporations to work with the School’s MBA students.

“While local Chinese firms benefited from the expertise offered by us, our students from diverse backgrounds, gained experience at a strategic decision level alongside senior corporate executives,” Professor Hendrischke said. “They also learn to work in teams and to pool their resources.”

Beyond the factory floor and in the boardroom, the students attended lectures at Shanghai’s Fudan University School of Management, and heard presentations by AMP’s North Asia Managing Director Beng Neoh and the German multinational Henkel’s CFO for Greater China, Terry Lam.

“A meeting with high profile Australian entrepreneur Michelle Garnaut, who founded Shanghai's first top Western restaurant M on the Bund, was rated by some of our students as the best experience of their China visit,” said Dr Wei Li.

“Finally, we saw Austrade's Shanghai Landing Pad and heard how newcomers have to cut their teeth in China’s largest and wealthiest city,” Dr Wei Li concluded.