edro Nueno, a Spanish business management expert, has compared his launching of business schools around the world to “building bridges of peace” at a time of growing global commercial exchanges.
During his first visit to Beijing in the early 1980s, he was impressed by the booming economy of China, which had started its reform and opening-up by then.
Nueno, sensing the need and confident of the country’s potential, immediately planned to start a business school here.
Nearly three decades later, his vision is reflected in the China Europe International Business School, one of China’s largest business education institutions, and Nueno, now in his early 70s, still serves as its president and a professor of entrepreneurship.
Nueno has taught at different institutes around the world, such as Harvard University, and has been a frequent speaker at international conferences.
He has been a consultant for many international institutions and corporations, including the World Bank, and has been a member of the advisory board of many business schools, including IESE in Spain.
According to Nueno, his interest in business schools was sparked by one of the professors at Harvard, where he received his doctorate in business administration.
The professor helped establish several business schools around the world after World War II and saw this as a means of building bridges between countries, and Nueno wanted to do the same.
So, the first thing he did after finishing his studies was to help launch a business school called IAE in Argentina, a wellknown place for related studies in the country.
He then helped launch business schools in Colombia, Mexico and Portugal.
In the early ’80s, he came to realize “now it’s the moment of China”, as he believed the fledging market economy would generate demand for business management knowledge.
So, he first launched a twoyear MBA program — with around 50 students — in Beijing in 1984, in cooperation with some European business schools as the precursor to a full-fledged campus in Shanghai later.
Nueno says building a school from zero was not easy.
He and his Chinese partners first found a space with help from the local government. They then spent time searching for instructors and finally formed an academic board.
He also drew on his own resources, including reaching out to business institutions around the world and inviting friends who are professors to teach in China.
A few years later he and his Chinese partners planned a campus in Shanghai.
They then convinced the European Foundation for Management Development, which is an association of European business schools, to get involved in the project, and also raised funds from international companies based in Hong Kong for the campus.
“People trusted us because they saw we were a committed Chinese-European team, and I think this has always been the case,” he says.
The Shanghai government also decided to support them with land in the Pudong area, which has now turned into a vast well-equipped campus.
However, before the campus opened in 1995, they had to use classrooms in Shanghai Jiaotong University and even hold lectures inside local hotels, says Nueno.
Now the school has grown significantly. It has three campuses — in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen — and two international bases, one in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and the other in Zurich.
The school has around 800 EMBA students and holds three full-time MBA classes every year, with about 40 percent of the nearly 200 MBA students from overseas.
“It (the school) is becoming more global. But we will continue to grow in China and also internationally,” says Nueno, adding that many Chinese students from the early years have become top managers with Chinese companies.
According to Xu Dingbo, the associate dean at the China Europe International Business School, modern management education was pretty much a blank slate in China in the early ’80s.
“Nueno realized that China lacked modern management education, which would become a bottleneck for its economic development. So he became one of the earliest to make efforts in this respect,” says Xu.
Xu adds that he respects Nueno for his efforts to combine Chinese practices and traditions with modern management skills in the school’s teaching, research and business practices, while emphasizing internationalization at the same time.
The school also partners with top-notch research institutions, such as Harvard Business School, to run joint modules worldwide.
“Management is a global thing,” says Nueno.
“China is a big economy and has some aspects that are peculiar and some opportunities and risks. So, what we try to explain is all these little differences in a global module.”
Nueno’s efforts to expand China’s global business presence led him to a meeting with President Xi Jinping in 2012.
The meeting was held soon after Xi was elected as the top leader and was attended by 20 foreign experts.
Nueno in his speech talked about how the Chinese government was perceived by the rest of the world. And he also shared his opinion on what should be China’s priorities.
Nueno says he thought Xi sent positive signals when talking about China’s further opening-up.
Nueno has high opinion of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Xi.
“I think it is a fantastic project. It’s a way to indicate that China is opening to the world,” he says, adding that he believes the development of one country is not a threat to another, but an opportunity.
To recognize Nueno’s contributions to business education in China, the Chinese government honored him in 2009 with the Friendship Award, which is the highest honor given to foreigners for their contribution to the country’s social and economic development.
Nueno, who visits China almost twice a month, says he is now used to this busy life and even makes use of his flight time to write.
He has authored more than a dozen books, including the recent Thanks, China.
The book, published in Spanish a few months ago and which will be available in Chinese soon, is about China’s contributions to the world.
For instance, since purchasing Volvo Cars in 2010, Chinese company Geely Auto has grown the former Swedish company and created many new jobs.
He adds that though there may be doubts and opposition to Chinese companies like Huawei entering foreign markets, just like what American or Japanese companies faced before, these companies are creating employment.
“The majority of companies are doing things correctly. So, I think it makes sense to say ‘Thanks China! Come!’” he says.
Pedro Nueno, president, China Europe International Business School
Contact the writer at liuxiangrui@ chinadaily.com.cn
Pedro Nueno, president of China Europe International Business School, speaks at a graduation ceremony in Shanghai.
Nueno talks with celebrity TV anchor Yang Lan, a former MBA student of his school. Right: Nueno meets with Chinese economist Wu Jinglian.