Choosing a Chinese MBA means following an accredited curriculum, taught by experienced professors from all around the world; there are even six Chinese universities that are triple-accredited from the three largest and most influential accreditation associations – AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS.

The rapid growth in global trade and investment, and the interchange of products, ideas and cultures has changed the world for good and has opened a whole new range of possibilities for development and growth. The Far East, previously known as a mysterious and exotic place, has transitioned – and with a bang! – to what is now collectively known as East Asia, a hustling and bustling whirlwind of manufacturing, commerce and trade, the place you need to be if you want to be global and reach new markets.

Long gone are the days where 'Made in China' signalled cheap goods of poor quality. As the second largest economy in the world, China attracts an increasing number of professional visitors every year and worldwide businesses are increasingly recognising people with capabilities and experience on the Asian market. Understanding Asian culture provides an undeniable and much needed edge in a highly competitive job environment.

The Chinese MBA USP

It comes as no surprise that Chinese MBA programmes are also on the rise. Usually pursued for their quality of education and development of critical business and leadership skills, MBA programmes also give you the ability to meet like-minded business professionals from various backgrounds and form and nourish valuable connections, getting better insight on cultural specifics – which is what makes MBA degrees offered by Chinese business schools so special. They make the MBA relevant to the region, and place knowledge and future career development in the context of Greater China, while still following world class accredited business curricula.

Despite being relatively new on the market, the quality of the education offered by schools in China has become widely recognised. In the Financial Times' 2016 business schools ranking, China has seven schools in the top 100, with three of them, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School (HKUST), Ceibs and The Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School (CUHK), in the top 30. HKUST ranks as high as number 15.

Chinese universities have well-established connections around the world and also offer dual or triple degrees – Ceibs, for example collaborates with Cardiff University, and HKUST has exchange partners in Canada, the US, Australia, Latin America, Africa and Europe, allowing you to spend one semester of their 16-month programme abroad.

Crunching the numbers

Students can also choose an accelerated MBA degree, obtained in 12 months, which will still allow you to benefit from interacting with the foreign exchange students, but will minimise opportunity costs and time away from work, a critical aspect in the hectic Asian lifestyle. But rest assured, there will be international collaboration – 50% to 90% of the students in MBA programmes come from outside of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and on average represent around 30 nationalities.

To be admitted, a student needs at least two years of professional experience and a Bachelor's degree, as well as a satisfactory GMAT score and English proficiency. Tuition fees range between 50,000 USD and 70,000 USD on average and, depending on the school's location, your expected budget should include up to 30,000 USD more to cover accommodation, expenses and field trips.

Chinese business schools teach the most advanced and renowned international business theories, but do place great importance on their practical application in China itself and ensure that graduates are well equipped to handle the most challenging aspects of the Chinese marketplace. Only about 30% of classroom time is dedicated to lecturing, while most of the learning occurs from working on business case analysis, seminars, discussions and presentations. Cases used in lectures come from top universities, such as Harvard, but are also developed based on specific local challenges, which gives students a greater insight into how business is being done in the region.

Curriculum & careers

While all material is taught in English, some schools, such as Ceibs, require basic knowledge of Chinese, offering a mandatory module before the MBA studies begin. Others, such as HKUST, offer basic Mandarin training free of charge for the first portion of studies, as well as total language immersion programmes throughout. Specifically designed modules on Chinese history and culture allow students to analyse and discuss the past and current status of China's trade and international relations. Field trips and organised sessions with local business representatives further improve students' understanding of the culture and provide a valuable opportunity for networking and building connections.

MBA graduates get a distinctive edge in the very unique Chinese business environment – good understanding of both Western management principles, as well as local Chinese culture and social issues. Employers are willing to pay a premium for such talent. In the 2015 FT MBA ranking, Chinese schools outperformed all others in terms of pay increase, with their graduates reaching an average of between 140% and 160%.

It is not just the acquisition of specific knowledge but, more importantly, getting a true taste of life in China that helps graduates thrive after completing their studies. Understanding the Chinese business environment and interacting with locals, experiencing the complexities of Chinese culture, people-thought processes, outlook- and problem-solving methods allow MBA graduates to be successful in their careers, both in China and back home. Around 80% of graduates remain in the region after completing their degree, and the majority of returned graduates remain deeply connected with Asia as overseas representatives of Chinese companies and conglomerates.

READ: Three Continents, Three Types of MBA

A challenge worth taking

There are several bustling cities where you can start your MBA search, to make sure you are in the centre of everything that is happening. Shanghai, the financial and commercial centre of mainland China, is one of the fastest developing cities in the world. Apart from also being a financial centre, Hong Kong is the international business hub for Asian companies, not only from China, but also from Korea and Japan.

While the job market is highly competitive, MBA studies equip you with great flexibility in targeting different jobs, as well as with the ability to apply for various internships and traineeships, not to mention building the personal connections and relationships that can help you get your foot in the door. There is rapid growth in many sectors, such as finance, healthcare and consumer goods, as well as many emerging industries in great need of managerial talent. For many of these fields, Mandarin is not required, but a level of command as well as strong cultural sensitivity and understanding are definitely a plus. 

If you are genuinely interested in Chinese culture, trade and business, and moving to East Asia to pursue a career sounds exciting and promising, a Chinese-offered MBA is just what you need – but be prepared to be equal parts amazed and frustrated. There are many challenges – the language barrier and cultural specifics, to name but a few. If you are set on overcoming these, however, it could be the experience of a lifetime, which will open a whole new world of possibilities for you.

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