CKGSB Program Snapshot: Clifford Chance’s Boardroom China Briefing
May 30, 2012

Senior leaders from global top-ten law firm update knowledge about China with a CKGSB Executive Education custom program

Members of Clifford Chance’s global management committee, CKGSB faculty members and guest speakers gathered in Beijing on May 17 for a CKGSB Boardroom China Briefing

BEIJING, May 28, 2012—A visitor to China from abroad once commented that Beijing, “has such a multitude of houses, and such a vast population…that it seems quite past all possibility.”

This is the impression of many first-time foreign visitors to modern China’s booming mega-cities. What sets the above comment apart, however, is that it was written by Venetian merchant and explorer Marco Polo, describing his travels in Yuan-dynasty China during the 13th century.

It is a testament to China’s enduring ability to awe (and sometimes bewilder) the broader world that today’s global executives sometimes still feel the same wonderment about the sheer scope of China as did Marco Polo—perhaps the original Western businessperson in China.

Today’s businesspeople, however, encounter a China that is bigger than ever in both population and economic output. The Chinese economy also exerts greater international influence than perhaps ever before, especially as its enterprises expand globally. And, most importantly, the pace of change in contemporary China is beyond anything Marco Polo could have imagined.

Nevertheless, CKGSB believes that with the right insight global executives can close their China knowledge gaps and greatly improve their effectiveness in doing business in China and with China, as well understand the implications of the next wave of globalizing Chinese firms. Such knowledge will be a vital tool for successful businesses to stay ahead of the curve as China drives economic growth in coming years.

Global law firm Clifford Chance is one such business that has already achieved extraordinary success and has recently chosen to go “back to school” with CKGSB to update its China knowledge. The firm’s Global Management Committee gathered at CKGSB’s downtown Beijing campus on May 17 to take part in a CKGSB Boardroom China Briefing.

“China is important to us for three reasons,” says Clifford Chance Managing Partner David Childs. “It’s important because as Chinese companies begin to invest overseas they are clients of ours. It’s also important as we act for our clients investing in China—many, many multinationals are investing in and will continue to invest in China. The third reason is because China’s overseas investment has also helped open new markets.”

Harvard Professor and CKGSB Honorary Professor Tu Weiming

The half-day session supported Clifford Chance’s goals by providing senior decision makers with the freshest thinking on China’s economic growth and globalization, as well as an overview of China’s global cultural impact from renowned new-Confucian scholar and CKGSB Honorary Professor Tu Weiming.

The idea for Boardroom China Briefings arose from CKGSB’s pioneering work in executive education within China. “Our original idea in establishing CKGSB in 2002 was that the school should integrate the best business and economic insights from China and abroad,” says CKGSB’s Dean, Xiang Bing. “But we very quickly discovered that the top of the Chinese business leadership pyramid was not being served with access to world-class business education, so we moved to provide them with such education.”

CKGSB Dean, Xiang Bing presented to members of Clifford Chance’s Global Management Committee

After CKGSB had spent the better part of a decade establishing itself as the premier business school for China’s most successful entrepreneurs and leaders of its top companies, Xiang had another insight. “I realized that globally the top of the business leadership pyramid is largely un-served with up-to-date, on-the-ground China knowledge and interaction opportunities with Chinese peers,” says Xiang.

Thus Boardroom China Briefings were born. The programs deliver unique insight and interaction opportunities to the senior leadership teams of companies from around the globe and from all manner of industries.

Guanghua School of Management Professor Michael Pettis

They are tailored to deliver flexible and effective programs over the course of a half-day, full-day or extended period. In Clifford Chance’s case, partners and senior managers from Frankfurt, Madrid, Moscow, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Perth, Sydney and the global headquarters in London dedicated a half-day to a briefing in Beijing.

“The session today at CKGSB is terribly important,” said Stephen Harder, the Managing Partner for Clifford Chance’s China operations. “We have our Global Management Committee here. There are individuals who manage six different global groups, whether it be corporate, or capital markets or litigation. There are also members who manage regions—the Americas, Southeast Asia, Europe, Central Europe, the Middle East, Africa.

“Many of them are highly sophisticated businesspeople and lawyers,” continued Harder. “But they don’t spend a lot of time understanding China. China is such an important part of our strategy. For them to come here and experience really great experts gives an opportunity for them to feel they profoundly understand the changes here, and that they’re not just relying on yesterday’s newspaper headlines.”

The briefing for Harder and more than 20 senior Clifford Chance team members included lectures and debates covering business, economic, political and cultural issues. The briefing was built around the expertise of CKGSB faculty members such as Dr. Xiang, who spoke on the global impact of Chinese firms, and Professor of Finance and Accounting Dr. Liu Jing, who spoke on China’s financial system.

CKGSB Professor of Finance and Accounting Liu Jing

Perspectives offered on China were also broadened by inviting distinguished speakers from outside of CKGSB to share their knowledge and projections of China’s growth in the coming years. These included China authorities such as APCO Worldwide Senior Counselor Jim McGregor, Guanghua School of Management Professor Michael Pettis and Economist magazine China correspondent James Miles.

Satisfaction with the design of the program and quality of presenters were evaluated extremely highly with many of the Management Committee requesting follow-up literature to supplement the program’s insights. “This was a great tour of the issues facing China’, said Jeremy Sandelson, Global Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution, “all very interesting and informative indeed.”

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