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Learning in the land of the
golden egg

BICIS participants visiting Schneider in Beijing.BICIS participants visiting Schneider in Beijing.
Forget the big apple, it is China’s golden eggs that will be increasingly significant for Australian economics.

Knowing what guanxi, mianzi and ‘big potatoes’ mean in business communication in China may just be the secret to future success as a group of UniSA students recently found out.

The UniSA Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of International Business (MIB) students had the special opportunity to take part in a Business in China Intensive School (BICIS) program this year and learn from their in-country experience.

Led by Professor Fuming Jiang and Dr Song Yang, a group of 27 UniSA students from all over Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore journeyed to Shanghai and Beijing to take part in the two-week study and experience program.

And in a first for BICIS, UniSA students were joined by Masters students from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Donghua University and the Shanghai University for Science and Technology. The study group, representing 11 different countries, quickly became firm friends and study partners.

Students were hosted at the Glorious Sun Business School of the Donghua University in Shanghai and at the International Centre for Chinese Studies in Beijing, learning about business practices of one of the fastest growing and most dynamic economies in the world.

Program director, UniSA’s Dr Song Yang, says it used to be said that if the US sneezed, Australia caught a cold but the economic focus has now shifted for Australia.

“There is a new terminology around this – for Australia it is now all about China’s ‘golden eggs’ - they are what has protected Australia from the worst of the GFC,” Dr Yang said.

“So it is only natural for Australian managers and students of economics to want to get a better idea of what the Chinese ‘hen’ looks like.”

He says the BICIS study program was designed to give students a real insight into the Chinese business environment and style of conducting business.

The program involved formal lecturers as well as guest speakers from a range of industries and organisations including Austrade, the Chinese Academy for Social Science, Renmin University, Tsing Hua University, Shanghai University, and Ernst and Young.

Students also had the opportunity to see many Chinese businesses first hand with company visits to white goods manufacturers such as Datung, global electrical manufacturer, Schneider Electric and thermal energy technology company Shen Wu.

“These visits were particularly useful in that students could network across industry and at the same time learn about different ownership structures in China,” Dr Yang said.

“One of the most dynamic aspects of the study tour was a negotiation simulation exercise that pitted the Chinese students against the other students in a real life exercise to establish if an Australian pharmaceutical company could mount a joint venture company in China with a state-owned company.

“The Chinese students proved themselves to be extremely diligent and tough negotiators and gave the UniSA students an excellent first-hand experience of Chinese business culture.

“I think our students developed a much stronger appreciation of the importance of creating strong relationships (guanxi) and for “giving face” (mianzi) in working with Chinese parties.”

Dr Sang says with China tipped to become the biggest economic power in the world in coming decades the BICIS program is incredibly useful for students.

“China is so dynamic and most of the knowledge published in business textbooks becomes obsolete very quickly so you can hardly get a clear picture about the business landscape of China unless you expose yourselves to the high-risk, high-return nature of Chinese markets,” he said.

“Seeing how that all plays out in-country is just invaluable.”

Head of UniSA’s International Graduate School of Business Professor Milé Terziovski says the program is such an asset that it has become a key building block for the internationalisation of the MBA Program.

“China is a fascinating place from a cultural and educational perspective,” Prof Terziovski said.

“The BICIS program provides our MBA students with an opportunity to experience both. This has been reflected in the outstanding feedback that we have received from our MBA students during their visit to China.”

He says the program offers the chance for students to learn a great deal from each other about cultural differences and business styles, providing a rich experience and at the same time creating new business opportunities and lasting friendships across many countries.

For more information about BICIS program at UniSA, visit the website.