Asia Society Northern California hosted a delegation of over 50 Chinese entrepreneurs all graduates of the Chinese European International Business School (CEIBS), the top-ranked Chinese business school, on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013. The focus of this event was innovation, entrepreneurs and the future of the Chinese economy. Starting off the event was a brief keynote address by Jack Wadsworth, the Honorary Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and Advisory Director of Morgan Stanley globally. Dr. N. Bruce Pickering, the Executive Director of Asia Society Northern California moderated the panel. Representing the CEIBS delegation were several CEIBS graduates who today are leading entrepreneurs in China: Zhao Hao, the CEO of Shanghai Bandweaver Technologies, a leading optical fiber company based in China; Pan Xuelin, the founder and CEO of Suzhou Cyber-Technologies, which is a leading Chinese software company focused on mobile apps; Ren Xin, the Co-founder of Hotelvp, which sells last-minute hotel deals at deep discounts; Dr. Bruce McKern, Professor at CEIBS was also on the panel. Joining the panel was legendary investor and entrepreneur William H. Draper III, one of the pioneering venture capitalist in the U.S..
The panel was optimistic about the driving role of the private sector entrepreneurs in China. They believe if growth of this sector is continued, Chinese businesses will overcome the wide held belief that they use imitation over innovation. The most recent growth in private sector entrepreneurs in China according to Mr. Draper is due to the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, “[Deng] did more for entrepreneurship than anyone in history.” Draper advised the panel that “be optimistic, don’t worry about failing, get up and do it again.” The fellow Chinese panelists echoed this attitude. A word of caution was given by Mr. Draper as he stated that “U.S. entrepreneurs have the highest divorce rates in the country” because so many entrepreneurs are “married” to their companies. Another interesting point Mr. Draper brought about is that “absolutely” more Silicon Valleys will emerge globally but most will be “typically found around the best universities.”
The panel also discussed issues such as intellectual property rights, the impact of state owned enterprises (SOEs) and the future impact of private entrepreneurs in China. Counter to popular belief all of the panelists believed in the importance of intellectual property rights in the protection of their technologies and ideas. Panelist Zhao Hao is aggressively fighting to protect his company’s technologies. Currently, he is preparing to sue a U.S. company which has been copying his intellectual property. On the topic of SOEs one panelist believed that these large and connected SOEs are slow, bureaucratic, and inefficient and that private industry in order to compete with them must become smarter and more nimble. The panelists and Mr. Draper concluded the event by delivering their agreement that private entrepreneurs will ultimately alter the Chinese economy. Helping it become an innovation based economy just as what entrepreneurs did to the U.S. economy.