Last year, when the organizers of the USC Marshall China Research Group decided to sponsor a research fair, they were hopeful there would be enough interest on campus to generate a decent turnout.
Little did they suspect that the event would take on a life of its own, growing into an international conference this year, and laying the groundwork for the establishment of a multi-institutional consortium within five years.
“Looking back, it was scary when we started,” said Nan Jia, USC Marshall Associate Professor of Management and Organization, and a conference founder. Since then, there’s been no time to worry because the organizers are too busy planning. They held a two-day event in January, “Text Analysis for Asia and Beyond,” and the second annual China Conference, “Institutions, Markets and Firms,” will convene on May 17-18, 2019, in Fertitta Hall on USC’s University Park Campus.
This year, scholars from around the world will present work on topics ranging from anti-corruption to media censorship, lessons from China on emerging markets to firm environmental performance. The conference is one of the only meetings in the United States centered around academic research on business in China.
“We saw a demand in academia for a platform dedicated to the business context in China,” said Jia. “In addition to researchers, students have expressed their desire to understand the differences between the Western business culture and the environment in China, and the media also is beginning to see the need to understand how the context of emerging markets affects business practice and how things are changing.”
Leading the way
Marshall has taken the lead among business schools with its focus on Asian markets in the past few years, according to Jia. “We have one of the highest concentrations of China scholars in the country on our faculty,” she said. “In business research journals, we’re everywhere. The China Conference will help to consolidate the academic resources around southern California who have an interest in this area.”
Jia said scholarship on business in China is relatively new, which gives Marshall a distinctive strength. “There are a lot of China centers in the U.S., but few are focused on business,” she said. “Others focus on macroeconomics, trade policy or the social/humanitarian angle. Other experts in other places can explore those areas. We are unique in that we are studying business.”
This year’s China conference is organized around topics relevant to that country: corruption, media, big data and the environment, among other themes. The keynote speakers are Yasheng Huang of the MIT Sloan School of Management speaking on “The Longevity of Chinese Absolutism,” and Randall Morck, of the University of Alberta, discussing “What Can Asia Teach Emerging Markets?”
The program was designed to further the momentum in scholarship. “We’re thinking about big themes and connecting them to the larger picture in the Pacific Rim,” Jia said.
With support from Marshall’s Institute for Outlier Research in Business (iORB), the conference will continue at Marshall next year, but in the future organizers anticipate creating a consortium of schools in the United States and China dedicated to furthering scholarship and dialogue in this area.
“China is becoming more important, but there is a lot of misperception,” Jia said. “To collaborate and compete, we have to gain an understanding of the business ecosystem there.”
This is part of a bigger trend, Jia said. “We’re starting with China, but it’s really emerging markets internationally. In the future we will be more inclusive.”
For more information on the 2019 China Conference visit the China workshop website.