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WORLD BUSINESS

Focusing on China

MBA students keen to learn about emerging giant

By Peter Walker for CNN

story.china.jpg
Ottawa University MBA students talked business in Shanghai.

FACT BOX

FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006

FACT BOX

EMBA SNAPSHOT

Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.

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Schools

(CNN) -- It's fast becoming one of the globe's most important business destinations, somewhere no would-be top executive can ignore. No surprise that MBA students are setting their sights on China.

Signs are everywhere of the increasing focus in executive education on the world's fastest-growing major economy.

At the end of last month, students from the Executive MBA class at the University of Ottawa in Canada spent 10 days in Shanghai, the major business hub on China's east coast.

It was the first time members of Ottawa's program had traveled to China for their International Consulting Project, a key part of the EMBA course in which students develop strategies and alliances on behalf of clients.

In Shanghai, the students interviewed contacts and carried out on-site research visits, getting ready to brief clients who this year included companies involved in high technology, health care and consulting.

"The class sees the growing importance of China in the context of globalization and wants to better understand what it takes to unlock the value that China holds," says Terrence Kulka, director of the Ottawa EMBA program.

The students, too, recognized the value of being exposed at first hand to the business culture of China, tipped by many experts to overtake the United States as the world's number one economy in the coming decades.

"The trip has connected us to a country in which many of us have never been before and will likely accelerate our future trips to this economically bursting region," three students wrote in a column for the Ottawa Business Journal.

Prize winners

Another telling sign of the attention being paid to China comes with the results of this year's Business Plan Contest for MBA students at the prestigious Harvard Business School in the United States.

Results from the 10th incarnation of the competition handed top honours in both categories to business plans focused squarely on China.

The winner in the "concept," or early development, category was Yashmere, a socially-responsible venture aimed at exporting the cashmere-like yarn made from the fur of yaks, the buffalo-type animal native to Tibet and other mountainous parts of far western China.

In the other section, known as "traditional track," the winning business plan was one aimed at exploiting the increasing spending power of a key segment of China's 1.3 billion-strong population.

8Baorice -- pronounced "bow-bow-rice" -- is an online community for Chinese female professionals aged 18 to 35, where they can read and share information about fashion, beauty, parenting, health and other topics.

Company creator Tingting Zhong says she has repeatedly noticed a particular focus on China while studying for her MBA.

"Definitely, almost every class either directly mentions China or refers to China. Nowadays, you can choose not to conduct business with China due to your risk tolerance level, but you have to understand China," she says.

Born in China before being educated in the United States, where she then began a career in finance ahead of her MBA, Zhong adds that fellow students have been keen to tap into her knowledge of the massive Chinese market.

"Throughout my two years at HBS I have had countless lunches and dinners with my classmates just to share my knowledge about China's business world."

Zhong's own business idea was born out of a knowledge of the country, notably the chosen target audience for her web community.

"Being a target customer myself and growing up in China I understand the needs of the Chinese female audience and know how to add Chinese elements to better suit their needs," she says.

"Why women? Quite simple: women are powerful consumers, especially in China, where women enjoy even higher social and financial independence than females in the U.S. and Europe.

"Unfortunately, the mature women segment is currently under-served in China's online space."

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