IXP Course: China; Current Challenges, Future Opportunities - Harvard Business School MBA Program

IXP Course: China; Current Challenges, Future Opportunities

Course Number 6045

Professor William C. Kirby
Associate Professor Christopher Marquis

On-Campus meetings during the Fall Term: TBD
Program fee & travel costs (see details on financial aid eligibility)
January Term travel (Saturday, January 11 through Tuesday, January 21)
1.5 credits applied toward Winter term requirements
Enrollment: Each section limited to 30 students

Career Focus

The goal of this IXP is to provide students with insight into the key future business opportunities in China that follow from its current economic, political and social challenges. Like the Chinese word for crisis which famously combines the two characters for "danger" and "opportunity," the course identifies business opportunities at a key transition point in the country's business environment. At stake is China's future growth trajectory and economic position in the global economy. Understanding China's economic model, growth prospects and the strategies of companies operating in China is perhaps the most important globalization issue facing future business leaders - both entrepreneurs and executives.

Educational Objectives

This IXP will focus on understanding the economic challenges and business opportunities created by the shift in Chinese policy from "growth at all costs" to "balancing growth with social and environmental stability." The course will therefore include visits with leading domestic Chinese and multinational companies in key industry sectors like information technology, venture capital, manufacturing, and real estate. It will also offer interview opportunities with both Chinese and multinational managers and entrepreneurs with different functional backgrounds.

Examples of specific questions that we will examine in the IXP include:

  • China's economic success has been built on its labor supply and ability to produce goods at low cost. But recently other countries have begun to out-compete China on price. How can China stimulate domestic demand to replace volume lost to lower cost competitor countries? Related to China's production system, how should China address the serious labor issues that have emerged recently?
  • What is China's role in the global economic and political system, both today and looking forward? China's rise has created significant controversy and debate in the United States, as political and business leaders raise question about China's production and economic model. How should multinational companies successfully deal with the constraints of the Chinese business environment? How do these uncertainties impact the success of doing business in China?
  • How is a state-driven economy fostering innovation and entrepreneurship as a solution to China's future challenges? How do start-up and established entrepreneurial firms compete with state-owned firms that are backed by the extensive resources of the Chinese government?
  • How can China balance its new focus on growth and sustainability amid massive environmental degradation? How is the government fostering environmental innovation and entrepreneurship as a solution to China's environmental problems?

Course Content and Organization

This China IXP has the following three elements:

  1. There will be three two-hour class sessions, scheduled from late October to early December. During these class meetings, we will read background materials to understand China's contemporary economic, political and social situation to lay the groundwork for the IXP experiences. The class sessions will consist of interactive exercises, films and case discussions.
  2. From January 11-21, 2012, students will accompany the faculty on an immersion experience trip to China. Students will undertake their fieldwork in the following cities: Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai. The IXP will start in Hong Kong, China's historically global gateway, where students will meet with leading corporations and financial institutions working to better connect China into the world economy. Students will then travel north to the economic engine of China's growth. In Guangzhou students will walk factory floors of cutting edge manufacturers. Finally, students will travel to the financial and commercial center of Shanghai, where they will engage with leading multinational, professional services, investment management firms. A day trip from Shanghai will take students to China's richest town, where they will engage with entrepreneurs from the tech industry and observe the dramatic shift from old to new China.
  3. Students will be placed in teams based on common interests and conduct related fieldwork interviews with entrepreneurs and managers throughout the IXP. The teams will present their fieldwork results in China at a capstone event in Shanghai. After returning to HBS, student teams will turn their field projects into a final paper. The final grades will incorporate their final paper, fieldwork in China as well as engagement during the IXP.


There are no educational prerequisites for this course.

The IXP Model

In contrast to FIELD 2 Global Immersions, IXPs are customized according to individual faculty research and are designed to enable students to take an active role in the construction of their learning. In many instances, IXPS are built with a specific focus in mind and teams of students are called upon to collaborate directly with local company partners to scope projects, collect data and organize work plans before and during the immersion. Alternatively, some IXPs are designed to provide a more macro-level understanding of business practices in a specific country, and require students to prepare for engagement with a number of firms representing multiple industries. Longer in duration than FIELD 2, IXPs also tailor learning via field-based exercises, panel presentations, guest lectures, alumni events and plenary visits to relevant companies and organizations.

Course Credit and Fees

Students who successfully complete this IXP will earn 1.5 course credits, which will be posted in the Winter term.

Students who successfully complete this IXP will earn 1.5 course credits, which will be posted in the Winter term. HBS will provide in-country logistics for IXPs (including accommodations, select meals, and local travel) but students will need to contribute a fee of approximately $1,700 towards defraying a part of these costs. In addition, students are responsible for their international round-trip air travel to China. Students who have an existing financial aid application on file may submit for additional financial support to participate in this IXP. Please see the Financial Aid website for more information on financial support for IXP courses.

Please see the GEO website for information regarding student accommodations on IXP courses.