In 1950 Switzerland and China established bilateral relations and in 2010 China became Switzerland’s main commercial partner in Asia. The two countries have built a strong relationship that was strengthened further in January 2017 with the modification and improvement of the free-trade agreements between the two countries signed in 2014.
Moreover, as a result of the Chinese government’s official “go global” policy, Chinese outward direct investment flows to the European Union increased tenfold between 2004 and 2011: from 73 to 7,560 million USD (Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China, 2011). These Chinese cross-border investments have become an important means to access strategic resources and reduce institutional and market constraints at home (Luo & Tung, 2007). However, there is evidence that a high number of Chinese investments in developed markets do not succeed (Williamson & Raman, 2011).
Although China is located among the top investment priorities for Swiss firms in the 2014 China Business survey, this same report also revealed challenges. In particular, employee selection, training and networking which are major external challenges and strong company culture and values as internal challenges.
All of these challenges, of course, can be related to culture, communication and the importance of building shared identity and effective communication in multicultural teams (MCTs).
In order to prepare future leaders for the coming challenges, the Sino-Swiss Summer University has been launched with financial support from the Direction Générale de l’Enseignement Supérieur and Shanghai University. It will provide students with insights into the processes of internationalization and the challenges faced in multicultural teams.
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To reach its objective, the SSSU connects 8 students from the University of Shanghai with 8 students from the HEIG-VD for 4 weeks - 2 weeks in Switzerland, 2 weeks in Shanghai. The students work on group projects and are co-taught by Swiss and Chinese lecturers.