Dean Qian’s Passion Makes a Difference
Jul 12, 2020

By Neil Schwartz

It’s certainly an exciting time to be an MBA student at Tsinghua, with both the Chinese economy and MBA program continuing to experience unprecedented growth. This exhilaration was reflected when first year IMBA students enjoyed afternoon tea with SEM Dean QIAN Yingyi on November 26, 2010. The Dean took the occasion to share his thoughts on a wide variety of topics, ranging from macroeconomic issues to his goals for the MBA programs. 



The session, which also featured Assistant Dean Gao Jian, Executive Director, MBA Programs Peal Donghui Mao and Director of the Career Development Center Jade Shi, began with a question about where the Dean thinks the IMBA program will be in ten years. He responded by saying that the MBA program mirrors China itself in that it is constantly improving and developing. As a result, it is hard to make a 10-year prediction.


What would we have said [about China] in 2000 about where would be in 2010?” said Dean Qian, who was appointed Dean of SEM in October of 2006. “In 2000, China’s per capita GDP was below 1,000 USD. Nobody would have imagined that 10 years later we would be around 4,000. Nobody would have imagined that housing in Beijing would be 10 times greater. Nobody would imagine that some parts of China would experience a labor shortage.”


Dean Qian did offer the prediction that in three to five years, the IMBA program will be much more internationally recognized as a premier program. In addition, he is determined to further strengthen the school’s collaboration with MIT Sloan School of Management. As SEM approaches the 15th anniversary of the partnership with MIT Sloan, Dean Qian and other leaders have started drafting the 4th five-year plan for the alliance.


We’re coming up with a list of proposals to continue to improve the program,” said Dean Qian, who graduated from Tsinghua with a BS in mathematics in 1982. “MIT Sloan also has partnerships with two others schools in China, and what we want to do is to distinguish ourselves from them. One idea is to invite MIT faculty to teach a complete course. In addition, next year happens to be the 100th anniversary of Tsinghua and the 150th anniversary of MIT, so we’re going to organize a joint celebration probably around May.” 


Dian Qian would also like Tsinghua to host an even greater number of highly accomplished guest speakers, especially by utilizing the school’s top advisory board. After making the keynote speech at October’s Global Leadership Forum hosted by the SEM, Dominic Barton, the Global Managing Director of McKinsey & Company, suggested that McKinsey participate in more events at Tsinghua.


He made a suggestion to initiate something like a McKinsey Global Leadership Series,” said Dean Qian, who received his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University in 1990. “Here, about once a month, we would host corporate leaders under the invitation from McKinsey. They have so many top clients all over the world, so they have access to countless industry leaders. These sorts of endeavors are the types of things we want to do more in the future.” 


While the future is undoubtedly promising, it is important to not lose sight of the major progress and accomplishments the school has enjoyed in recent years. Dean Qian says that by far, the most substantial developments have been the reforms in the curriculum and admissions process. In terms of the curriculum, several “soft-skill” classes have been added, such as Managerial Thinking and Communication and Ethics and Corporate Accountability.


We’re trying to emphasize our unique features, such as China roots and a global vision, and put it all together into a coherent program,” said Dean Qian, who previously served on the faculty at Stanford University, the University of Maryland, and the University of California, Berkeley. “Our purpose here is to train general managers to be future leaders.”


In terms of the admissions reform, this only applies to the Chinese students. In the past, local students were required to take the national business school exam before applying. Now, potential students will first go through the application and interview process before taking the exam. From there, promising applicants will be given a conditional offer dependent on their getting a satisfactory score on the exam.


We legally have to accept the national exam, but in the past it was the major feature of the application,” said Dean Qian, whose major research areas include comparative economics, institutional economics, economics of transition, and the Chinese economy. “Now, the process is mainly based on the application materials and interviews, and the exam is more supplementary. This allows us to focus more on leadership potential.”


Leadership is certainly something Dean Qian knows a great deal about. He has been the leader of one of the top business schools in the world for four years. Originally trained as an economist, Dean Qian has displayed an intense commitment to his position and to continuing to improve the SEM. 


I feel very honored to have been given this job,” Dean Qian said. “At the same time, I feel huge pressure and responsibility because our founding Dean [Zhu Rongji, who later became the fifth Premier of the People’s Republic of China] is very highly regarded and has very high vision and standards. Ultimately, I am an economist, but I have a strong passion to make a positive impact on this school. That passion has allowed me to make a difference.”


And that passion will no doubt allow Dean Qian to continue to exert a tremendously positive influence on the progress at Tsinghua SEM.


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