This is a guest post by Jonathan Poston. Jonathan is currently a business professor at Warren Wilson College, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Drymos Group LLC and an adjunct professor at Galen University in Belize.
Before China became the world’s second largest economy (as it is today), or even the third, fourth or fifth, US high schools and colleges focused heavily on encouraging students to learn Spanish. Now, with incentive dollars (often speculated to be a soft power move by the PRC) coming from the Chinese government for colleges and high schools to teach Mandarin Chinese, Spanish has a little more competition. However, with the exception of a few MBA programs few US schools emphasize understanding China’s (business) culture.

A while back I visited Dr. Dirk Brown, who heads the Faber Entrepreneurship Center at the University of South Carolina and was really impressed to learn that the international MBA students there immerse themselves in foreign language and culture training, with many students choosing to study Chinese language and culture.

Fast forward to this summer, after I had been reading international news, like this 2012 NYTimes piece, China Buys Inroads in the Caribbean, on China’s development ambitions in Central America, when I decided to propose teaching a China business & development course for Galen University in Belize.

According to that NYTimes article, China has made significant gifts (investments?) to various Caribbean countries:  A $35 million stadium given to the Bahamas. A sports stadium, grammar school, and renovated hospital to Dominica. A new cricket stadium and power plant to Barbuda and Antigua. An offer to lend $6.3 billion to Caribbean governments.

And then there is China’s talking about building a $40 billion canal through Nicaragua.

China’s growing worldwide influence and investments/gifts is sure to impact Central America, and what China’s recent activity in the region means precisely for Belize is unknown, but nonetheless Galen University has accepted my proposal to teach a course this fall titled, “Chinese Business Partnerships & Economic Development.”

I am hoping to incorporate a bit of the following components into my China business course:

  • Chinese history basics
  • Chinese business culture and etiquette
  • China best practices
  • International economic development trends and tactics
  • Strategic geographic review of Chinese economic centers (ports,manufacturing, capitals, trade zones, etc.),
  • Basic conversations in Mandarin (building rapport & getting around)
  • Overview of Chinese geopolitics
  • Strategic trade relationships
  • The Chinese government’s role in business
  • Intellectual property protection and security considerations
  • Negotiating contracts
  • Developing working relationships w/decision makers,
  • Structuring and closing deals

I am considering having my students read Selling to China: A Guide to Doing Business in China for Small- and Medium-Sized Companies, by Stanley Chao.

With that said, I am certain the above topics would be sufficient for an entire degree on China business, but naturally in one course, these will be discussed more superficially, and no one will leave the class fluent in Mandarin Chinese, or even close. But, I am hoping this course will serve as a framework for better preparing Belize’s future leaders to sit at the negotiating table with Chinese investors and to walk away with a win-win deal in hand.

My hope in sharing this course outline with China Law Blog readers is to generate some discussion around what China’s involvement in countries so close to the United States is going to mean, both for those countries and for China and the United States and to solicit feedback on what people think I (and others) should be teaching in university-level China business
courses, along with any suggestions on what materials, etc., could be added to a course like this.

What do you think?