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IE University China Center presents its report on entrepreneurship and innovation in China at South Summit 2021

IE University China Center presents report | IE University

The third edition of the report was presented at the South Summit today.

IE China Center presented today its third annual report at the South Summit 2021, “The Intangible Concept Behind a Tangible Economic Miracle (A calling: what drives China’s entrepreneurial class to new heights?)” to contribute to an understanding of the growth of the Chinese economy by taking a more focused examination of the inner world—spirituality, and motivation—of China’s hard-working businesspeople.

This report, with the participation of Tianjin University in China, has conducted studies using different data sources, along with a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore the extent to a calling in the context of Chinese entrepreneurs and executives, and that underpins their passion and perseverance, especially during difficult times.

“Chinese entrepreneurs are increasingly being encouraged to use their passion to narrowing the gap between rich and poor, in which case a sense of pro-social altruism and a tie between personal values and the future of the nation will be further highlighted in China’s national strategies. An understanding of this trend could help create conversations and collaboration opportunities with Chinese businesses, which is necessary not only for the continuous growth of the Chinese economy but, more importantly, for the world benefit in the coming years”, said Dr. Bin Ma, Academic Director of IE China Center.

The report has taken four aspects as the key elements to understand China’s highly dynamic business culture, as well as the outcome of the decades of rapid economic growth, which have contributed to a better understanding of Chinese entrepreneurs and business leaders in terms of their inner motivations and the resultant outcomes. 

“This report probes the spirit that drives Chinese entrepreneurs to overcome political, economic, social and other barriers, in the belief that what drives them is a vocation, not unlike the fiery religious or spiritual calling of the West.”
Félix Valdivieso, Chairman of IE China Center.

“As the report notes, given the religious roots of the concept of vocation, and based on the arguable premise that the Chinese are generally unfamiliar with the religious spirit, research into the origins and purposes of that concept are borrowed from Western religion”, said Félix Valdivieso, Chairman of IE China Center.

Based on this thorough research project, the conclusion is that, in contrast to their peers in the West, Chinese entrepreneurs and business leaders derive their sense of calling about the meaningfulness of work from four major aspects, in order of importance: 

  • Altruistic contribution. This indicates one’s willingness to serve and help others, considering other people’s needs, building the country, and returning something to society. This is underscored by the collectivist nature of Chinese culture that motivates people to work hard for the greater good of the community, society, and the country overall. Making an altruistic contribution is the most important dimension of the calling of Chinese entrepreneurs and business executives because it drives all four types of strategic behaviors we have examined in this project, such as business overall performance, social responsibility, diversification, and internationalization.
  • Actualizing the value of life. This aspect covers one’s self-expectation, self-satisfaction, personal improvement, and growth, as well as the ultimate personal goals and value of one’s life. Contradictory to the collective tendency, the self still plays a central role in the pursuit of one’s work and career goals in China. To actualize one’s personal value of existence through work is one of the key drivers for Chinese entrepreneurs, which promotes the diversification and overall performance of their companies. 
  • External influence. Very often, Chinese entrepreneurs are motivated by external factors that force them to seize the opportunity of China’s economic reformation, following the trend of entrepreneurship in the early 90s, or fulfilling a sese of duty to continue a family business. Together with the mindset of altruistic contribution, their focus on external influences helps Chinese entrepreneurs and executives to commit to social responsibility more efficiently and effectively. 
  • Personal attachment. This emphasizes the importance of personal faith, belief, and preference. A significant proportion of the entrepreneurs and executives we sampled started their business and/or chose their career because they believed in the potential of certain sectors and that they had the passion and skills to make a change in that area. This passion drives them further expand, including internationally, and to seek the resources and opportunities necessary to develop their sector.