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This year’s World Exposition in Shanghai has been billed as one of the most important ever, but it comes at a difficult time for many world economies. This is not the moment to be splurging on taxpayer or shareholder-funded Expo pavilions and official trips to the Chinese business capital without good reason.

Mindful of this, China European International Business School in Shanghai, which collaborated with the Expo during the initial planning and development phase, has organised a calendar of events during the six-month world fair to promote itself while doing its bit to foster a growing business and academic relationship between China and Europe.

“There is a constant stream of businessmen and business school alumni visiting China,” says Pedro Nueno, professor of entrepreneurship at both Spain’s Iese Business School and Ceibs. Prof Nueno is also co-founder and board chairman of Ceibs.

With the vast majority of the 70 million people expected to pass through the Expo site being Chinese, international delegations are being offered a unique opportunity to present their case to a large audience at one venue.

Prof Nueno says Ceibs has been attempting to meet requests from overseas government and business groups for quick master classes or more organised seminars on China to coincide with their visits to the site.

Iese, through its close links with Ceibs, is also attempting to promote the expo as a forum for contact-making – particularly for companies from crisis-hit Spain – in the world’s largest consumer market. Representatives of the regional government of Catalonia, for example, recently combined their presence at the expo for “Catalonia Week” with a seminar organised by Ceibs and Iese entitled “Catalonia. Catalyst”.

As a follow-up, Iese presented a report on postgraduate education in Madrid, to students and faculty from Ceibs and the University of Zhejiang, in the city of Hangzhou.

This week Ceibs is helping the municipal government of Barcelona present its investment case at an event in the city’s pavilion. Next month, Prof Nueno will be the main speaker at the inaugural dinner of an “Innovation Meeting” in the Spanish pavilion.

Prof Nueno says the aim is to promote the Chinese school and the Expo, while opening European and Chinese eyes to business opportunities in each others territories.

“There was a danger that the event [Expo] wouldn’t get the attention it deserves because of domestic problems of governments and business in the western world,” he says.

Prof Nueno says Ceibs has made its network of contacts and its facilities available to overseas visitors, particularly those travelling with business delegations.

With his long association with Ceibs and China, Prof Nueno has become a source of expertise in Spain for executives looking to break into the Chinese market and for Chinese looking at Europe. He was among the co-founders of China’s first European MBA programme in Beijing in 1984 and 10 years later the creation of Ceibs, in conjunction with the European Commission and numerous European business schools.

Iese, meanwhile, also ran the “Inside China” executive programme last year and there is regular faculty exchange between the two schools.

In spite of these business school links, Spain has been timid in its relationship-building with the world’s largest consumer market, compared with some other European economies. This may be due to the ease with which Spanish corporations entered Latin America in the 1990s, when other European companies were starting to head east.

However, Spanish companies have in recent years thrown the net wider and Prof Nueno says they are learning how to do business in China. In fact, their experiences in Latin America and other emerging markets has become a selling point in China.

“The official position of the Chinese government at the moment is one of globalisation of the Chinese economy,” says Prof Nueno.

“For the Chinese, any foreign company that helps them open up new markets is a good partner. When that market is one of great interest – such as Latin America – then Spanish companies have a lot to offer.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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