Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Entrepreneurial course taught by Professor Xu
About Professor Xu
A Closer Look At “Contemporary China And Entrepreneurship"
By Sara Karolak, AEL Intern
Gary Xu, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Illinois, has made a career out of examining a wide range of influences on contemporary China. Trained as a literary critic at Columbia University, Xu has most often used that background, in conjunction with cinema studies, as a foundation for his scholarly work. As a faculty fellow for the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Xu has taken his interests and gone a step further, developing the course "Contemporary China and Entrepreneurship."
The course's main focus is on how entrepreneurship has impacted the political, cultural and economic structures of China. For Xu, the impetus behind proposing such a course came not only from his strong ties to the country and culture, but also from his experience as a professor in the humanities. "As a humanist, not a business professor, I was interested in social entrepreneurship: how ideas of capital growth are integrated with the desire of improving society as a whole," says Xu.
"The inspiration for this course comes from China's quick economic ascendance,” says Xu. “This is based on an entrepreneurship that is in sync with the international standard, as well as traditional Chinese characteristics.” According to Xu, Traditional Chinese characteristics in the business world rest heavily on human feelings and face-to-face interactions, which when paired with more Western business standards, can result in unique situations. “It requires entrepreneurs to be flexible, adaptable, and pay attention to human connections.”
During the course, topics discussed include globalization, neoliberalism, socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneurship, as well as opportunities and challenges brought by a changing China. The course, which is now integrated into Xu’s winter study abroad programs in China, also entails visiting Chinese businesses and non-profit organizations so students can see first hand how to interact with Chinese entrepreneurs.
“Many students have moved on to careers related to China—either interning and then being employed by companies doing business with China or starting their own business in the country,” says Xu. “One student is working for the German Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, while another has decided to be socially entrepreneurial and go to the remote mountain villages in Yunnan to teach English and help with the local communities.”
For Xu, seeing students wind up in such varying field related to entrepreneurship is one of the rewards of the course. As an academic, Xu has never regarded entrepreneurship as a single, narrow path. “In today's world, being entrepreneurial as an academic means that we must remain concerned about world affairs, about social development patterns and about environmental issues.”
While Xu’s commitment to these issues is evident through this course and others, his work does not end there. Xu is currently in Shanghai working to further develop exchange programs between Shanghai Jiaotong University and the University of Illinois. He is also translating a Chinese autobiographical novel into English, as well as planning an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art at American museums.
To Xu, his tendency to have his hands in many different projects helped lead him to the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “My time as a faculty fellow has added more dimensions to my research, which is always centered upon China. I decided to apply for a fellowship because I thought it was a good idea to venture out of the traditional humanistic domains. It has certainly impacted the way I think about academics and teaching.”
Enterpreneurial course taught by Professor Xu
GLBL 298, Contemporary China and Entrepreneurship
Reflect on China's development within globalization today through documentaries and on-site visits that
enhance understanding and expand critical perspectives on topics such as China's urbanization,
westernization, and environmental issues.
The course abroad to Shanghai, China, is a general introduction to
Chinese culture, concentrating on the mutual impact between
China's development and globalization. The course addresses
issues such as Chinese urbanization and westernization;
environmental protection and development; the increasing gap in
wealth distribution; globalization of festivals, such as Christmas,
New Year's; social entrepreneurship and community building.
Participants will learn about these topics through readings,
screening documentaries, and visiting relevant locations in
Shanghai and nearby cities and villages.
The course will be based at Shanghai Jiaotong University, in its
historical downtown campus. The focus will be on Shanghai, its
colonial history, its leading role in China's rapid economic
development and urbanization, its central role in financial
capitalism, and its future during China's battles with bottlenecks in sustainable development and with
Visit Course Catalog website for course availability
Return to top
About Professor Xu
Return to top