Understanding China, Peking 2019

IMG_5976Today I cycled to Peking University, as I always do. This fact in and of itself is not remarkable, compared to the Beijing I visited seven years ago, the experience of cycling here is still a whirling dance that is somehow simultaneously more chaotic yet more peaceful than London. Similarly, the street corners remain decorated with masses of bicycles, but while seven years ago they would all have been privately owned, now I find myself greeted by fields of blue and green and orange and yellow, colourful steeds to spur me away with the scan of a QR code.
While we haven’t focused on bikeshares specifically in class, we have discussed the companies that have transformed China’s internet. In “Channel and Retailing”, we discussed the e-commerce giants Taobao, JD, and Pinduoduo, while in “Managing the Multinational Corporation in China” we have seen again and again why, despite the vast business opportunities this company offers, numerous foreign companies nonetheless fail here. The reason? “You just don’t understand China.”
Understanding China at least a little bit better is precisely why I came here. I wanted to gain a view on Chinese business and saw taking MBA classes at Peking University as a great way of doing so.
IMG_7144.JPGThe class schedule is not what I’m used to – each class meets just once a week, but for 3.5 hours. While at first such a long chunk of time seemed an incredibly daunting prospect, the reality is that class gets divided into very roughly one hour chunks, with twenty to thirty minutes of break time interspaced through the time period. To my surprise, I found that I actually appreciated the long class sessions, as it provided a lot of time to dig into the topic of the week, without having to overcome the inertia of starting class multiple times a week.
The classes have generally been grounded and concrete, with two of my classes being largely case based. A third class is co-taught by McKinsey and Temasek, with additional guest speakers from private equity to rising start-ups. While I sometimes find myself missing the expansion to more abstract theory, I have found myself pleasingly familiar with various aspects of current business in China.
IMG_6010After nine weeks here, I now cycle the streets of Beijing with many of the things around me calling to mind facts and stories from class. A three-wheeler with a dog on it now calls to mind JD building competitive advantage through its proprietary logistics service and China’s e-commerce landscape as a whole, while the convenience store in my apartment complex makes me consider the service output demands it is fulfilling.
China is big, at times overwhelming, and awesome in so many ways. It’s importance on the world stage also means that anyone needs to know something about what’s happening here. Of course, I certainly don’t understand China fully after such a short time, but this MBA exchange is part of my continued effort to try.
– Adam Kratoska, GMiM 2020

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