A New Phase About to Come

A few minutes ago, I officially announced the change in leadership for the GCC Network and the move of dividing up the Network Management Division and Network Expansion Division.

As Aaron said, there is something intriguing about the fact that the NMD is the only division in GCC that has been handed off to a third Director since GCC was first founded. The first sign of “longevity” – even if only relative in comparison to the other divisions or student groups – is a sign of inner stability.

Building GCC was very much like building a company. The management structure has morphed from a strict division of responsibilities, to a more organic entity, back to a very well-defined system of individual divisions. Like an entrepreneurial firm, the structure needed to adapt constantly to the environment – timing, location, people. If this sounds familiar it’s because it is the familiar “天時,地利,人和” trinity, the circumstances that will determine the success or failure of any entity.

Just as instrumental music became popular in Europe when the technology of making musical instruments flourished, GCC grew and prospered drastically as China became the outlier of economic performance, exceeding expectations and creating exceptions. We have tapped into the biggest shift of paradigm in the 21st century in so many different ways it’s impossible to foresee what will be the exact outcome. But in an environment where too many factors are changing and too many uncertainties lay ahead, the best thing to do is to follow your instinct – and the worst thing to do is to stay stationary.

自古亂世出英雄 – if you only live once, which I assume we all do, why not make something special of your life?

The exposure to the outside world through GCC has profoundly altered my interpretation of risk versus uncertainty. We are all risk-averse. But we cannot avoid uncertainty no matter what we do. Risk and uncertainty both exist as pure consequences of time, but risk can be calculated, modeled, and predicted; uncertainty however, is inevitable and must be embraced. The realization of the inevitability of uncertainty is the single most fundamental factor that changed much of my decision making process, and consequently, yielded the following decision:

I am going to take a semester off and spend it in China.

The decision is almost risk-free. But the decision is ridden with uncertainty. I have come to realize that while I am extremely risk-averse, I am not averse to uncertainty.

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Lunch with Booz & Co.

As prize for winning the Columbia Case Challenge, Team Almost GS was given the opportunity to have lunch with Mr. Becker Chase from Booz & Co.’s New York office. The lunch was great. Sashimi, bento box, shabu shabu – all paid for by the generous Columbia Economics Society (which receives its funding from our student life fee).

Turns out, Booz is very interested in China. Their home page tells the compelling story of a new “China Strategy” – a worthwhile read.

“In the world’s fastest-growing economy, the experience of the last ten years will not be the best guide to the next ten years. Business leaders around the world who want to be successful—not just in China, but anywhere—will need a new China strategy.”

Indeed, a lot of this might just seem like an overly not-another-bullish-view-on-China book. But the fact that the Chairman of Booz & Co. Greater China region is thinking in line with GCC should still be taken as an encouragement.

And what do you know? “Indeed, China is now the world’s largest and fastest-growing source of entrepreneurial start-ups.” Spot-on opportunity for GCC members right there. The world’s largest international student network focusing on China – and what business opportunities do our members have, if not in entrepreneurial endeavors? GCC-Vanderbilt is looking at starting a chapter initiative on doing pro bono consulting work in Nashville Tennessee.  GCC-Harvard is looking at bringing volunteerism to China.

“Since 1978, China’s economic growth has been phenomenal,” the report goes on, “but also extremely inefficient.”

What are the trends?

With regards to the model of business ownership, the chairman writes, “it will evolve toward a nondemocratic but market-driven form of rule that, arguably, has never been seen on the world
stage before.” Included is a fascinating interactive graphic of how these ownership trends are heading toward.

Lastly, Mr. Tse wrote on leadership – “Many Chinese officials have internalized this aspiration. They have taken on responsibilities beyond their job descriptions, acting as the guiding hand in the creation of a world-leading nation. Their interests extend beyond self-enrichment to the creation of national wealth.” This reminds me of the words of Mr. Li at Ping An Insurance during the GCC Winter Delegation, “The most outstanding human capital of China are going into the political system.”

So all of this sounds wonderful and great. How do I get a piece of it? Becker assured me that every year, Booz tries to hire at least one person from Columbia. How very kind of them. I think I am better off working my ass off at Goldman Sachs this summer.