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April 11, 2011

China Business Initiative Examines Global Reach of Chinese Businesses

Two of China’s top business players visited Columbia Business School April 6 to discuss the restructuring and globalization of Chinese state-owned enterprises and markets as part of the School’s 2011 China Business Initiative (CBI) Forum.


Two of China’s top business players visited Columbia Business School April 6 to discuss the restructuring and globalization of Chinese state-owned enterprises and markets as part of the School’s 2011 China Business Initiative (CBI) Forum.

Hosted by the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business, the forum focused on two important aspects of business in China: the globalization of Chinese markets and enterprises and its impact on the world economy; and the restructuring of a state-owned enterprise, China Eastern Airlines, as a case study for other state-owned entities in China.

Weihua Ma, president and CEO of China Merchants Bank, and Shaoyong Liu, president and chairman of China Eastern Airlines, served as keynote speakers and also took part in a Q&A session hosted by Fangruo Chen, the MUTB Professor of International Business and director of CBI.

One of the markets looking to expand beyond China’s shores is the country’s banking industry. Ma said that although Chinese banks and the nation’s economy suffered relatively few repercussions during the global financial crisis, improvements in management are needed to measure up to western peers and expand overseas. Such changes will be part of China Merchants Bank’s transformation during the next three to five years, Ma said, with the bank also focusing on financial innovation and improving non-interest income.

“Only satisfying customers is not enough,” Ma said. “We have to act faster and better than our competitors.”

Liu noted that competition is also a main driver for China Eastern Airlines, particularly as the company continues its global expansion. The airline carried 70 million passengers last year, which Liu said is representative of China’s growing airline industry. “In the next five years, China Eastern Airlines will be a global brand with a global image,” Liu said.

David Beim, a professor of professional practice in the Finance and Economics Division, moderated a panel discussion featuring William L. Atwell, president of CIGNA International; Richard H. Neiman, superintendent of banks of the New York State Banking Department; and Zhongjun Wang, chairman of Huayi Brothers Media Co., Ltg.

Launched in 2009, CBI organizes events in New York and China for representatives from academia, industry, and government to exchange ideas and generate research on management and economic issues facing China. These events bring together key constituents for in-depth debate on such topics as sustainability, global supply chains, and financial service operations.

“The goal of the CBI is to build a bridge between Columbia and the business community in China,” Chen said. “The rapid growth of the initiative since its launch proves just how critical it is that Chinese business leaders connect with students, faculty members, and alumni as China continues to become an ever-larger player in the world’s economy.”