A look into Cheung Kong, China’s most elitist/expensive/eHarmony-like business school

November 20, 2012Jing Gao3 Comments, , , , , ,

Infographic made by iRead, translated by MOT

In their latest recruitment ad, Cheung Kong Graduate Business School says, ‘The Business School that Best Understands China’. As the most expensive business school in China, Cheung Kong’s EMBA programs enroll only three types of students: government officials, entrepreneurs, celebrities.

Public curiosity over Cheung Kong started from the gossip column. 61-year-old Wang Shi, owner of China’s largest real estate developer Vanke and one of the country’s best-known entrepreneurs, has reportedly divorced his wife after 30 years’ marriage and fallen in love with an actress 30 years his junior. The news was first broken on Sina Weibo, the country’s most vibrant social media site, by numerous verified users, and immediately spread like wildfire. Within two days, the posts were shared over 45,000 times.

The relationship, on which neither Wang Shi or Tian Pujun, the actress, publicly commented, received harsh judgment from Chinese netizens. For one thing, May-December romance seldom receives any blessing in China, as in this case, Chinese love to presume that Wang is a lustful cradle robber and Tian is a gold digger. For another, with aversion for mistresses and marital infidelity getting increasingly ferocious in China, Tian is publicly accused of being the reason for destroying their marriage.

Evidence? Wang Shi and Tian Pujun apparently met at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business a few years ago.

Suddenly, as the media frenzy surrounding Wang Shi and his new flame reached the fever pitch, the spotlight was turned onto the mysterious and exclusive school, the place where the two fell in love, and where the country’s most powerful and glamorous mingle.

Business schools were not introduced to China until the late 1990s. Within a little more than a decade, they have become the most active social platform for the elite in political and business circles.  Bosses of large companies and state-owned banks as well as heads of cities and important government organs never fail to take two days out of their hectic schedule every week, in which they fly in their business jets to a certain city to take classes, and more important, to eat, drink, sing karaoke, play golf and poker together after class.

Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business is the crème de la crème of these networking clubs that are tailored to Chinese culture. Established in 2002 with generous contributions from Li Ka Shing, a Hong Kong business tycoon and Asia’s richest man, it has three campuses in China: Shanghai, Guangzhou and its headquarters Beijing.

Its abundant funds and rich human and material resources have made it the most selective business school in China. Tuition fee of 650,000 yuan (US$104,000), eight years of work experience, five years of management experience…These are only basic entry requirements. The owner of a real estate business in a third-tier Chinese city was rejected because his company does not rank high enough in the industry.

The status symbol of the elite class is reflected in every detail about Cheung Kong: the commencement of its first EMBA class was held in the Great Hall of the People, also the meeting place of each National Congress of the Communist Party. Each commencement after that is held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. The annual meeting of its fourth CEO class was held inside the Forbidden City. Even the cloakrooms for its graduates to change into academic dresses have to be suites at a five-star hotel.

Although its acceptance rate is as low as 1 in 15, government officials, executives of state-owned enterprises and heads of state-owned institutions hardly fail to get in. Their tuition fees are usually paid for by their work units. Of course, they are far from the majority. According to statistics available on Cheung Kong’s official site, those from the public sector account for only 10 percent of the student body. The rest are mostly company executives.

Since 2009, Cheung Kong’s EMBA program has been stepping up its effort to recruit celebrities. Chen Luyu, anchorwoman and talk show host at Phoenix TV, once told the press that the reason she chose Cheung Kong is she was persuaded by the eloquence and charisma of Xiang Bing, the dean.

The business schools love to work out a tacit bargain with celebs: We make you tempting and lucrative offers, you come to our school, generate publicity and improve our appeal. Zhang Quanling, a prominent host at China Central Television, the state broadcaster, revealed on her Weibo that she was invited by a famous business school to its program and was guaranteed a degree without even taking classes.

What do they study at the business school? Those EMBA students, who refuse to be identified, said, “Are you kidding me? EMBA program is in fact a matter of blending in with the circle.”

There is a popular saying among EMBA students, “College is all about the right school. Post-graduate study is all about the right supervisor. EMBA is all about the right classmates.” EMBA students attach more importance to the valuable alumni network, which often brings about business opportunities. If any of them is lucky to be in the same photo with Li Ka Shing, Hong Kong business tycoon and the benefactor of the school, it will definitely fast-track his career better than anything else he gains from the program.

In addition to the EMBA program, Cheung Kong also offers a CEO class, which consists of 5 sessions spaced out in 18 days. The five sessions are taught in difference locations around the world: London, Columbia, Switzerland, Hong Kong, etc. The 18-day class costs 550,000 yuan (US$88,000). Round-trip travel expenses and visa-related fees are not included. “This short training class is tailored to successful business people who are too busy to attend the EMBA program,” a faculty member at Cheung Kong said.

The general public may exclaim in disbelief at the 600,000-yuan plus tuition fee, but its students in this small coterie are not in the least bothered by it. One anonymous source said, “EMBA is like luxury goods of top-notch brands. Anyone that can afford it is never sensitive to the price tag.”

To some female students, getting into Cheung Kong is a particularly worthy investment. In addition to finding someone to bankroll their projects, they may also find their future husbands. Business schools have proved to be a perfect matchmaker. Because most male students in the program are middle-aged and married, the nickname “demolition teams” are given to females who shake a marriage to its core and make a family fall apart. Another popular slang says it all: “MBA = Married But Available.”

After the Wang Shi incident, Mu Zimei, a blogger with household fame in China, wrote in her column that the EMBA program has a tradition of ‘giving hotel keycard”: a female in the class checks in at a nearby hotel and gets two keycards. She gives one of them to whoever she wants to hit on, often surreptitiously, but sometimes in public.

In another extreme case recounted by a Cheung Kong graduate who spoke on condition of anonymity, a woman got herself four boyfriends during her study at the business school, and her gains were also spectacular: two million-yuan luxury cars, four villas, and several-million-yuan investment in her three beauty salons.

These legendary stories are a clarion call for women who wish to marry into a fortune: “Cheung Kong, a holy site for Chinese women to operate their capital,” “This is what we call ‘Knowledge changes fate.’” Chinese netizens joked.

Cheung Kong responded to it quickly – in 2003, tuition fee for its EMBA program will be raised to 688,000 yuan.

NetEase: 女子读商学院2年换四任男友 获4套豪宅2辆豪车
iRead: 长江Style 最懂中国的商学院
Legal Weekly: 长江商学院:知识不仅改变命运,还邂逅姻缘
Danwei: Real estate billionaire Wang Shi’s divorce and new girlfriend

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3 comments to “A look into Cheung Kong, China’s most elitist/expensive/eHarmony-like business school”

  1. TX | November 20, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    You don’t go to a place like this for the book learning, you go for the industry connections.

  2. Jonathan Fairbank | November 21, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Watered-down curriculum + playground for the well-connected = worthless degrees. I am a former professor of international business at CIU.

  3. been there seen that | November 29, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    the dean xiang bing is a master in marketing, raising tuition rates because he knows the psychology that works on chinese trying to get ahead – raise the tuition price and more will come because a high price attracts sucker aspirers. the school might claim a 1 in 15 acceptance rate to the emba program, but in reality they don’t admit that they take nearly anyone willing to pony up the cash – even people with just an elementary education because at least one in this category went on to write a book about the school. the sad thing is that most can barely make the tuition payment, but they kill themselves to do it in the hopes it will bring them a windfall in networking. as it turns out, classes are full of aspiration suckers.
    xiang bing plays the press by claiming all these illustrious alumni, but if you look carefully none of them have degrees from the school. a few might have a certificate from an executive education program, but that’s about it. xiang bing parades their names around as if they were degree-holding students ready to endorse the school. but in fact, most make it only to a few classes and then forget it because if they are stars they are given free tuition – another tactic to draw more sucker aspirers to fork out the high tuition so the school can fill its coffers. it’s more of a business than a school.
    the school tries to cover its lack of integrity with the money that it runs on. Money is the new opium for the new china. but as china gets smarter to sniff out the con men, the school will no longer be an “alluring mystery”, and instead collapse on itself and be exposed for the embarrassment that it is.

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