MBA@UNC Global Immersion: Shanghai - Day One

MBA@UNC Global Immersions are offered four times a year as unique opportunities for students to travel to major international business destinations with their fellow classmates, participate in engaging discussions with their professors and elite industry leaders, as well as apply what they have learned to real-life problems they now have the knowledge to effectively overcome. At the Shanghai immersion, MBA@UNC students participated in a track focused on challenges and opportunities in China. Throughout the first day, MBA@UNC students learned about overcoming new venture challenges and understanding risk and reward in China, along with how to navigate Chinese policy.



Session 1: The China Challenge: Launching Azure

The morning of the first day started with George Yan, the General Manager of Marketing and Operations for Microsoft China, who is in charge of establishing and executing products, marketing strategy, and business operations in the region. Yan was responsible for the inception of a new business model and development strategy for launching Microsoft Azure in the short time span of 10 months, making Microsoft the first global public cloud provider to have comprehensive cloud operations in China.

Yan delved into many of the opportunities and challenges of doing business in China, as well as explored some of what Microsoft learned while launching Azure.

  • One of the benefits of launching new products and services in China is the speed at which growth can be achieved. For example, Uber has been able to expand from 1 percent of the market to almost 30 percent within nine months.
  • When taking on a leadership role with Chinese employees, don’t expect to be able to take a direct approach. Be prepared to spend more time getting to know your employees and having one-on-one conversations about their personal lives before diving into work-related topics.
  • Yan discussed the differences between bringing new business to China through partnerships with the government, state-owned enterprises and private corporations.

Session 2: Overcoming New Venture Challenges in China

Next, UNC Kenan-Flagler Professor David Jacobson gave students an in-depth look at the cultural, political, and economic differences to consider when doing business in China. Professor Jacobson, who will be leading the immersion extension, has more than 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur and international lawyer focused on bridging the gap between the East and West. During the session, he explained the differences between American and Chinese business cultures, their approaches to relationship building, and reactions to signing contracts. Jacobson also led students through a case study on GE’s joint venture with AVIC, a Chinese state-owned enterprise in the aerospace and defense industry.

Session 3: Business and Culture in China

Building on the theme of understanding Chinese culture, Frank Hawke focused on the values of the Chinese people and how they differ from American values. Currently serving as the China Director for the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Hawke lectured about how an agrarian culture like China differs from America. When placed in certain situations, Hawke described how each culture typically behaves: America has an individualistic culture, centered on the individual, while China has a communalistic culture, centered on the community. He also described how each culture reacts to situational ethics: America tends to follow a universalistic approach that adheres strictly to the rules, while China takes a particularistic approach, where personal relationships are more important than following the letter of the law. This is important to know when negotiating contracts, in that the Chinese consider contracts to be fluid rather than legally binding.

Rooftop Dinner at Element Fresh, in K11 Art Mall

After a day of learning about the Chinese culture, it was time to explore the city of Shanghai up close. Students headed out to K11, Shanghai’s premier luxury shopping mall and art museum, for dinner and drinks in order to get to know each other and continue the day’s discussion. The rooftop terrace of Element Fresh provided breathtaking views of the nighttime lights of Shanghai’s skyscrapers and was a wonderful way to end an amazing first day of the immersion.