Biz school president eyes China's potential

Updated: 2012-12-17 23:53

(China Daily)

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China Europe International Business School's president Pedro Nueno says he recognized China's potential in his first week in Beijing three decades ago. What he saw then reminded him of his childhood in Barcelona, Spain, when the city was undergoing massive industrialization after the recession in the late 1940s.

He remembers smoke puffing from chimneys and black soot flakes falling. People wore blue, or green, striped company uniforms. Night markets sold street food underneath the glare of bare light bulbs.

Biz school president eyes China's potential

CEIBS president Pedro Nueno. GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY


"I felt motivated by what I saw," Nueno recalls. "I was convinced that China had potential. Look, if we did it, this country can."

This led Nueno to devote his life to his education project in China, he explains, gazing across CEIBS' roof at the vast Shanghai campus that did not exist two decades ago.

The Spaniard was a curiosity to the Chinese when he lived in Beijing at the start of the reform and opening-up in the 1980s, but the feeling was mutual.

He wanted to learn about the country by opening a school.

His vision has created campuses in Beijing and Shanghai attended by 1,000 students a year, and an upcoming project in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. The school started in Beijing in 1984 with a two-year MBA program.

Nueno believed the fledging market economy would generate demand among the nascent business management set.

The process was slow at first.

The entrepreneur and his partners spent a great deal of time searching for instructors and finally formed an academic board.

He drew upon resources from Harvard University, where he earned his PhD, and reached out to leading European business institutions like the Spain-based IESE, and INSEAD headquartered in France.

"When we saw that the project was going well, we decided to expand," he says. "We looked for another partner who would allow us to develop the way that we wanted to."

The school won European Union funding and Shanghai's municipal government gave it land in Pudong district. In 1995, the school had its first campus built in Shanghai.

"While you could say I was the founder, the success of all these is attributable to the fact that we are a team of motivated people who made big efforts because we came from nothing," he says, laughing.

Management professor Hellmut Schutte, who will become CEIBS' vice-president and dean in February, says: "(Nueno) has the ability to dream big dreams, sell these ideas to others and then ― because of his inherently humble nature ― work with others to make what has now become a shared dream and a tangible project."

Nueno says: "We call it China, Europe, International, indicating the global role China is destined to play over the long run."

CEIBS has been configured to link East and West in teaching, research and business practices, while promoting China's social and economic development.

It partnered with top-notch research institutions, including Harvard Business School, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and London Business School, to run different joint modules worldwide.

Nueno's efforts to expand China's global business presence put him on the invitation list of a Dec 5 meeting with Party chief Xi Jinping, attended by 20 foreign experts.

"All I had to do is to explain what I believe from my heart, which turns out to be quite easy," he says.

It was the first time for the newly elected Party leader to meet foreigners in this capacity. Nueno believes it conveys the leadership's foreign policy blueprint of strengthening its ties with the outside world.

Nueno gave the event's first speech and talked about how the Chinese government is perceived by the rest of the world. He also shared his opinions about China's priorities.

"I must say that I like him (Xi) very, very much," Nueno says.

"The perception I got is that it has been a very positive change in the leadership."

Nueno says Xi sent positive signals when talking about social concerns, peace and China's opening-up.

Neuno encourages entrepreneurship among students and alumni. The school recently established two investment platforms to sponsor students' projects that offer new ideas, cutting-edge technology and good jobs.

"By nurturing open-minded entrepreneurs, we want to contribute to society in a practical way," Neuno says.

CEIBS' ongoing efforts in Africa echoes what Xi has emphasized about the need for Chinese firms to go global.

"Xi mentioned that the prosperity of China will not be achieved without the prosperity of the rest of the countries," Nueno says. "This is something we are writing cases of and putting models on that we see as good examples."

CEIBS' executive president Zhu Xiao-ming believes Nueno's contributions are not only founding the school but also bringing international resources to China.

"Through the school, Nueno helped provide the business management skills needed to drive Chinese economic growth and nurtured thousands of business management talents," Zhu says.

The Shanghai government gave Nueno the Golden Magnolia Award in 2007. He received the China Friendship Award from the State Council in 2009. The Spanish government has also honored his work.

"Not many holidays and not many free weekends ― this has been my life. I even used my flights to write," her says.

He has published 14 books.

Nueno has also missed much time with his family, who lives in Spain. But his three children and seven grandchildren have visited China.

"They have all heard me talk a lot about CEIBS, and understand and appreciate the importance and magnitude of the project," he says.

As he nears 70, Nueno says age won't hamper his work to change lives ― including his own.

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