Corporate Citizenship in China: Leveraging China's Brightest Students
In December 2004, The Center published an In Focus report entitled China: Building Trust, Guanxi and Community. According to the report, "In order to be successful doing business in China, you need to think about the specific ways in which China is different from other countries in which your company operates, and tailor your community involvement initiatives accordingly."
The report then goes on to make several recommendations as to how companies can build their understanding of a community, the first of these being to "do your homework before moving into a community and get a sense of its cultural assumptions, beliefs and principles."
The Pilot Program for Cultural Dialogue (PPCD) and its partner organization, the Association for International Practical Training (AIPT), can help with this "homework." PPCD is a student-run organization with volunteers in the U.S. and China that connects American companies with China's brightest college and graduate students to solve business problems. AIPT is a J-1 designated visa sponsor with offices in Washington, D.C.
Using a unique methodology, PPCD matches Chinese interns with summer internships at American companies and then provides cultural training to both sides to help them work together effectively.
According to PPCD Director Will Powley, "PPCD uses the recommendations of former host employers and interns to pinpoint cultural differences between the U.S. and China. PPCD then highlights those cultural differences at the start of every internship program."
The interns come primarily from the three most prestigious universities in China – Beijing University, Tsinghua University and Fudan University – and have worked for multinational companies in China and abroad. While at these companies, Chinese interns have taken on such projects as international strategy, finance, market research, competitive analysis, and cultural training.
PPCD's interns have worked with a number of companies in the Boston area who are expanding their businesses in China. For example, last summer the global online career network, Monster.com, hired three of PPCD's interns to work in international sales. The interns were responsible for creating market research reports to help Monster better understand the Chinese job market. According to Monster's Group President, International, Steve Pogorzelski, "The interns made recommendations that really helped our business."
Menlo Innovations, a business-software analysis firm, hired Chinese interns through PPCD's partner, AIPT, to help Menlo's employees better understand the Chinese culture. "The sharing of ideas between our employees and our international interns is incredible," said Menlo President Rich Sheridan. "They have a profound influence on our company and we are able to spread our unique ideas throughout the world."
"Because of their experience doing comprehensive market research and their unique understanding of Chinese culture, Chinese interns may be the perfect fit for corporate citizenship departments looking to understand the cultural assumptions, beliefs and principles of Chinese communities," says Powley.