Understanding China in the Global Marketplace

September 10, 2012—Baker scholar Weiheng Zhang (C’13) roots many of his professional goals in the development of his native China. An economics major, he is dedicated to understanding the country from a financial perspective—its history as well as its present and future needs.

Zhang, who is also minoring in philosophy and mathematics, first became interested in economics 12 years ago. During a tour of the Chinese coastline from Shanghai to Guangzhou, he saw firsthand the overwhelmingly positive results of “Reform and Opening,” the famous economic policy that China has followed since 1978—when it opened itself to foreign investment and privatized state-owned industry. China has flourished in the decades since, becoming the world’s second-largest economy behind only the United States.

“Born and raised in China, I witnessed the economic boom in China after its opening and reform,” Zhang said. “I have always been fascinated by the societal and cultural changes that followed this economic boom: how the urban populations adjusted to modern city life, how people’s views toward consumption and traditional values changed over the years, and especially how the Chinese in my generation have fundamentally different life goals and values compared to my parents’ generation.”

After graduating, Zhang wants to use his understanding of economic concepts and financial tools to help China stay relevant in the global marketplace. He also wants to help China create and stabilize a peaceful working relationship with a global community that increasingly scrutinizes the country due to its soaring economic power.

“I hope to pursue a career in finance and the natural resources industry,” Zhang said. “As the Chinese economy shifts away from its heavy reliance on manufacturing to more service-oriented industry, there will be more demand for high-quality talent—people who understand sophisticated financial markets, people who can help China build its own markets according to international standards and best practices.

“China is a developing giant,” he continued, “and its appetite for natural resources is raising concerns among its neighbors and around the globe. I hope to help Chinese natural resource companies find alternative sources of natural resources and [to help them] fuel China’s growth in a more harmonious way. I hope I can enhance mutual understanding between business communities in China and the U.S.”

To better understand the financial industry, Zhang interned with Goldman Sachs’ investment banking division this summer. On campus, he refines his business knowledge through the College’s Baker Scholars Program. Founded in 1973 by the family of the late George F. Baker, the program is dedicated to cultivating business leaders who are both intellectually inspired and socially conscious.

As a member of the prestigious program, Zhang receives mentorship from a diverse group of business leaders.

“Being a Baker scholar is both a rewarding and challenging experience. Every year we go on two trips—one to New York and one to another major U.S. city—where we talk to senior members from different corporations about their business strategies and company culture,” Zhang said. “For example, we recently had the chance to listen to the founding story of Chick-fil-A [as well as] learn about the macro strategy of a top U.S. hedge fund.”

But in the true spirit of the program, Zhang has also realized more deeply what it means to be “men and women for others,” a Jesuit ideal of community, service, and responsibility that informs the academic and extracurricular activities at Georgetown.

“Being offered such great, life-changing opportunities, we are mindful, as Baker scholars, of those who are less fortunate,” Zhang said. “As the co-chair of the Baker Difference Committee, which is in charge of giving back, I am working closely with fellow Baker scholars to serve the communities in the greater DC area that need the most attention and care.

“In the past year, we have helped serve meals at the DC Central Kitchen and Central Union Mission,” he continued. “This coming year, we’re looking to increase our contribution to the local community and to expand our impact on those in need.”

During his senior year, Zhang will continue to bring together the tenets of business and social responsibility as he prepares to extend his education into a career on the global stage.

—Brittany Coombs