News & Insights East meets West: Can China and the world learn the best from each other?
That’s the ambition of Hua Fung Teh, Group President, ONE Championship, who has built a global sports franchise around Asian martial arts. To fully appreciate this, it’s worth understanding the landscape for global sports franchises.
For a start, nearly all of them originate from either Europe or the US such as the English Premier League or the US National Football League. Moreover, the launch of truly multi-country new franchises is rare, with only three being created in the last 25 years – the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Indian Premier League and ONE Championship.
Yet for those that succeed, the rewards are great. The global sports industry is worth US$160 billion – that’s more than four times bigger than the global movie box office at US$38 billion.
For Teh, the attraction of sports as a form of entertainment is obvious.
“Sports, particularly live sports, is the king of content; it creates moments which are unrepeatable and unites communities and societies,” he told the audience at the 10th Credit Suisse China Investment Conference (CIC).
And Asian martial arts offers all the ingredients to win over global audiences.
“[Martial arts] is an Asian sport, developed in Asia and there is a real authenticity around this. For us martial arts is Asia’s greatest cultural treasure.”
Think global, act local
The expansion of international schools into China is one compelling example of the region’s willingness to take the best of other cultures and adapt it to local needs.
International and bilingual schools in China are booming, with the number of private bilingual schools estimated to surge from 367 in 2017 to over 600 in 2020. Yet while their popularity is in no doubt, the CIC audience wanted to know if it was really possible for these schools to offer western-style education under the framework of the Chinese national curriculum? The answer is yes, according to panellists discussing the evolution of international education in China.
“If the Chinese rigour and tremendous technical skill can be married with innovation that we see in pockets of the world, and developing the breadth and depth of the individual, that could be incredibly potent,” according to Jim Hawkins, Global Head of School Heads and Vice Chancellor at the Whittle School & Studios.
That’s not to say international and bilingual schools don’t face challenges, of which a major one is regulation. The influx of such schools into China has led to concerns they are taking the best pupils, explained Chris DeMarino, Managing Director and Founder at Academus Partners. As a result, cities are establishing new rules that they hope will address these concerns. For instance, Beijing has introduced a lottery system for admission to international schools. Yet while this may appease parents, from a schools’ perspective, it means they can no longer set admissions standards for entry.
In addition, as the international school system expands, recruiting also becomes harder; this could have consequences for the growth of the sector, noted DeMarino.
“The challenge of scalability around schools is getting the right teachers. We’re seeing an increase in teachers’ salaries which will affect some of the listed education companies,” he said.
Yet, despite the obstacles, the outlook for the sector remains promising, with growth driven by the second and third tier cities as appreciation of a bilingual foreign education increases.