Action Learning

China Lab

China Lab pairs students with companies looking to solve a real business challenge.

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China Lab

Welcome

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15.225 China at a Crossroads: China Lab

Spring 2021, 12 credits.
 

Since opening its economy in 1978, China has been the world’s fastest growing economy and is likely to become the world’s largest within the next decade.  This remarkable growth has lifted over 850 million out of poverty, built the world’s largest middle class, created a dominant export-oriented global supply chain, and launched remarkable platform business models and technology giants.  Despite this, China today is still a work in progress, with a per capita income about one quarter of developed countries, high levels of income inequality, and significant environmental pollution.  Adding to this landscape, China currently faces the internal political dynamics of increased control of society and the economy by the Chinese Communist Party, deteriorating trade relationships with much of the world and the strains of the Covid-19 global pandemic.

This class will explore current issues in China’s political economy and corporations with a focus on key issues that global managers need to consider as they navigate their China relationships and business strategy.  The course will use case studies, lectures, class discussion, guest panelists and team projects to characterize the landscape and explore lessons for multinational and domestic businesses in China.  Topics will include:

  • Government policy and its implications for business strategy
  • The U.S./China Trade War
  • Covid-19 and its impact on China’s world status
  • Hong Kong’s future and the Greater Bay Area
  • China’s supply chain challenges
  • The One Belt, One Road initiative
  • Platform models and big tech – domestically and globally
  • Intellectual property and technology transfer
  • Innovation and new ventures

China Lab provides an opportunity to understand China through an Action Learning project in addition to class sessions. Projects are divided into two tracks: issues involving political economy and those of corporate management.  Political economy teams will conduct research and analysis, and then recommend policy positions in consult with faculty, NGOs and think tanks.  Corporate management teams will address issues or management challenges with an entrepreneurial Chinese company and produce actionable recommendations to the host company. A unique feature of the corporate management track is that many of the projects are composed of mixed teams with Chinese IMBA students, adding additional learning opportunities of cross-cultural and remote teamwork. 

Projects focus on dynamic vertical markets such as artificial intelligence, the sharing economy, social media, health care, energy, fintech, and manufacturing. The content scope includes business strategy, market entry, new business development, marketing strategy, competitor analysis, operations management, and financial strategy.  Under current MIT COVID-19 restrictions, projects will be conducted via remote engagement.

China Lab

Info for Students

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Credit: Jenn Alton Photography

The Class

China Lab pairs students with companies looking to solve a real business challenge. Tasked with a specific project that caters to a participating host company's needs, each four-student team (comprised of MBAs, MFins, MSMS students, and sometimes international MBA (IMBA) students from some of MIT's premier partner business schools in China) works across cultures and time zones from February through May to put traditional classroom learning into real-world practice while addressing critical business issues and promoting economic growth.

In a typical spring, China Lab would send 24 or more student teams to an equal number of Chinese host companies to collaborate on-site; some with their IMBA teammates. In like fashion, the IMBA students would visit MIT Sloan for a week in spring, finishing their project work with their Sloan teammates. Due to COVID-19, students will be working remotely with their host companies and IMBA students throughout the spring 2021 semester, while still gaining invaluable experience from their project work and host company interactions. Participating companies and entrepreneurs often request teams year after year, attesting to the strength and impact of previous years’ projects.

Bidding

Students interested in China Lab can start bidding for the course in early December, 2020. Those accepted into the course can learn about and bid on projects in January. 

Student Timeline

  • December-January

    Team formation and bidding.

  • February-March

    Project scoping, hypothesis development, research, and completion of interim research report. 

  • April

    Hypothesis refinement and research.

  • May

    Finalize and present report to host. 

China Lab

Info for Hosts

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The Benefits of Becoming a Host Organization

Being a host organization can be an exciting and fruitful opportunity. Together with students, hosts can: 

  • Explore an opportunity that does not fit easily into the day-to-day work flow of current employees, and requires creative, long-term thinking.
  • Provide a new perspective on the host's strategic thinking or organizational model.
  • Analyze the implications of new global technology or market trends for an existing business. 
  • Assess whether global expansion is necessary or valuable given the host's assets and capabilities. 
 

Interested In Becoming A Host?

Please email John Grant.

Host Timeline

  • October-November

    Host recruitment. 

  • December-January

    Student teams are recruited and matched with projects. Hosts find out if they have been successfully matched. 

  • February-March

    Project scoping, hypothesis development, research, and completion of interim research report. 

  • April

    Hypothesis refinement and research. 

  • May

    Students finalize and present reports to hosts. 

China Lab

Faculty

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China Lab Faculty

Yasheng Huang

Yasheng Huang

Behavioral and Policy Sciences

Epoch Foundation Professor of International Management

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John C. Grant

John C. Grant

Behavioral and Policy Sciences

Senior Lecturer, International Action Learning Programs (G-Lab, China/India Lab, GO-Lab)

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China Lab Mentors

Joseph J. Battat

Joseph J. Battat

Behavioral and Policy Sciences

Senior Lecturer, Global Economics and Management

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David Birnbach

David Birnbach

Behavioral and Policy Sciences

Lecturer, Global Economics and Management

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Charles Kane

Charles Kane

Behavioral and Policy Sciences

Senior Lecturer, Global Economics and Management and Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management

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Jayne Tan

Jayne Tan

Behavioral and Policy Sciences

Lecturer, Global Economics and Management (GEM)

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Faculty Voices

  • YASHENG HUANG, International Program Professor in Chinese Economy and Business, Professor of Global Economics and Management

    "Chinese businesses can learn from our MBAs, many of whom have worked as accomplished consultants and technologists, and it is good exposure to how they think about and approach business issues.

    "China Lab is deeply, intensely interactive. Students gain a deep view on the Chinese economy, business, and culture. The students who have participated in China Lab overwhelmingly believe this is a very positive experience and one of their highlights at MIT Sloan.”

China Lab Students

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