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China Business Forum’s Co-Chairs, Zheyang He, MiFFT 2018 and Sara Zhao, MBA 2019

By Sheena Dave

LBS’s annual China Business Forum takes place on Friday 25 May. Life@LBS discussed the event with China Business Forum’s Co-Chairs, Zheyang He, MiFFT 2018 and Sara Zhao, MBA 2019.

For those that don’t know, could you give a brief overview of this year’s China Business Forum and what it’s about?

LBS China Business Forum (CBF or the Forum) is one of the largest student-led, China-focused business forums in Europe. Dedicated to foster a collaborative environment for sharing business ideas, CBF is a flagship annual conference organised by LBS China Club in partnership with thought-leaders from business, politics and academia in the UK, China and beyond.Since inception in 2012, CBF has attracted over 1,800 participants from over 40 countries, and received coverage from leading media partners, such as BBC, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and Phoenix TV.

Now in its seventh year, CBF 2018 has an intriguing theme of 'Does China Still Need the West'. The Forum will take a deep dive into the theme via a series of panels and speeches spanning across five key areas: Macros and Policies, Sinovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, Fashion and Luxury Goods, and Young Leaders. We are also proud to present over 30 speakers from some of the greatest or rapidly expanding companies in China, including but not limited to NIO, Alibaba Cloud, Mobike, Haier, Bank of China and China Construction Bank. In addition, we also invite guest speakers from internationally reputable firms such as UBS, Goldman Sachs and Harrods.

'Does China Still Need the West' is an intriguing concept – how did you think of it?

With China’s rising power, economically, technologically and politically, we are keen to take a deep dive into how China collaborates and competes with its Western counterparts now and in the future. Some would argue that China is still playing catch-up, while others would think otherwise. At our Forum, we explore this theme from multiple facets:

  • Session 1: The New China - the Rising Power

China's rising economic and soft power has strengthened its influence at the world's stage. We will look into how China's flagship Belt & Road Initiative influences East-West co-operations. We are also keen to explore how Sino-British relationship evolve after the Brexit referendum. The liberalisation of Chinese capital markets coupled with RMB internationalism widens the scope of East-West collaboration, and we will discuss the opportunities and challenges over cross-border investments.

  • Session 2: Sinovation – the Golden Era

‘Made-in-China’ label has long been associated with negative connotations. In recent years, China sheds it ‘copycat’ image and impresses the world with its new inventions. In this year's CBF, we will take a deep dive into some of the best and most evolutionary Chinese innovations. We will explore how these firms establish and integrate themselves into a rapidly-changing and increasing competitive world.

  • Session 3: Technology & Entrepreneurship – the Power Shift

China is on the path to the global technology dominance, and it has just started. China’s entrepreneurship ecosystem has been established and is playing a catch-up with its Western counterparts. We invite you to join our discussions on the global power shift in the technology space and how entrepreneurship empowers the proliferation of innovation in China.

  • Session 4: Fashion & Luxury Goods – When East Meets West 

Chinese fashion and luxury goods market has witnessed a phenomenal growth with a remarkable 20% consumption increase in 2017. With the booming middle and upper-class consumers, western brands are crowding into the Chinese market which embraces the growing dominance of e-commerce, smart payments and consumption upgrades. In this session, we will explore the changing dynamics of the sector and the importance of China’s role.

  • Session 5: Young Leaders – Talents With a Global Vision 

Over the last decade, there has been a surging number of Chinese students pursuing their studies overseas, and the accumulated number has reached 4.6 million in 2017. These students have brought home with them not only a western degree, but also a westernised mind. In this session, we invite some of the best young leaders based in the UK to share with us their insights on how Eastern and Western talents interact, compete and integrate, and how they deal with cultural and reverse cultural shocks in a new / changing environment.

What goes into planning an event like this?

CBF 2018 targets 300+ participants, and we are technically managing close to 400 people if we include speakers, media, guests and volunteers. Organising this Forum involved dedicated commitments from the CBF 2018 Organising Committee, considerable amount of joint efforts from the wider China Club 2018 Committee and insightful guidance from our China Club 2018 Co-Presidents, Joyce Wang, MBA 2018 and Jessica Yang, MBA 2018. We also received generous supports from LBS alumni, sponsoring firms, strategic partners and speakers.

Equally importantly, we are kindly supported by the School. We would like to express our special thanks to the Dean’s Office, GMIM Office, Jon Conradi and Sunita Chambore (Student-Led Initiatives Office), Lamia Senousi, Christopher Moseley and Cady Zhou (Marketing & Communications Team), who offered invaluable advice and timely logistics arrangements for our Forum.

Our CBF Committee was established in October 2017 during which we designed the timeline and sub-team plans. Thereafter, we kicked started the heavy-lifting work across speakers, sponsorship and logistics. Our speakers team has filtered through over 200 contacts to arrive at 30+ high-profile speakers; our sponsorship team made consistent efforts throughout to identify not only sponsors but also strategic partners for our Forum; our Logistics team screened over 30 external venues to firm up Queen Elizabeth II Centre. Two months leading up to the event, our marketing and speakers teams joined forces in producing marketing materials and in launching our multi-channel marketing initiatives. With one month to go, the entire China Club Committee offered incredible help in promoting our events and in ticket sales.

 Tell us a bit more about the speakers.

At CBF 2018 we are proud to present 30+ speakers with diverse backgrounds and a wealth of experience. Here are some of our highlights:

  • Dr Angelika Sodian, Managing Director of NIO, UK. NIO, a born-in-China start-up, breaks into the premium/luxury automobile industry which was previously dominated by the West. Three years from inception, NIO launched its debut model, which was viewed as a serious competitor to Tesla. Dr Sodian will share with us NIO’s vision and technological breakthroughs which makes NIO stand out not only in the domestic but also the international markets.
  • Michael Ward, Managing Director of Harrods. Harrods is one of the oldest and most reputable department stores in the world, and certainly one of the “Must Go” places when visiting London. Given the rising purchasing power, Chinese consumers now take over the British shoppers as the largest spending group at Harrods. Mr Ward will take us through some of the initiatives at Harrods to win over Chinese consumer flows and to stay competitive given the disruptive threats from online retailing.
  • Huabin Wang, Deputy General Manager at Bank of China, UK, China’s Belt & Road Initiative is an economic and diplomatic programme which will revitalising trade routes and diplomatic connections with other countries. Together with three other largest state-owned banks, Bank of China raised billions for Belt & Road endorsed cross-border investments / developments. Mr Wang will share with us insights on Belt & Road Initiative which will reshape global trades and certainly the future collaborations between China and the UK.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome so far?

The most challenging thing, we would say, is to shortlist and narrow down our speakers list. It is extremely difficult to leave out some high-profile speakers who are less connected to our wider theme. On the flip side, however, you can see how much effort, as a team, we put into screening our speakers and into designing the sessions. We are confident that the Forum will be an unforgettable experience of your LBS journey and certainly will reveal many aspects of “New China” you do not know about.

Which parts of the programme day are you personally looking forward to?

CBF 2018 has so many highlights, and we absolutely love them all! The sessions are designed to be inter-connected around our Theme; while they are diverse enough to cater to your specific interests. Our venue is at Queen Elizabeth II Centre, which is in the very centre of London and within minutes of walk from Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. You cannot miss the venue, and you certainly cannot miss our Forum on the 25 May!

For more details, please check out our website: https://www.lbscbf.com/,

Do not miss our early-bird tickets which are selling fast and will end on the 6 May: https://lbs.eventscase.com/attendance/event/index/136