Taking care of business at Central Party School
Though the courses do not count towards an MBA, businesspeople are beating down the door of Liu Jianjun to hear his ideas.
The chairman of a Guangdong business consulting company is offering entrepreneurs the chance to spend six days learning from the leading lights at the Central Party School, the training ground for the country's civil servants.
The school was set up in the 1930s with the main aim of training party officials in communist dogma and counts President Hu Jintao among its former senior staff. But it is now reaching out to the wider community.
For 6,800 yuan, businesspeople can hear about some of the thinking that goes into central government policies.
'The training only lasts six days and is provided by former senior Communist Party officials,' Mr Liu said. 'People can listen to the party scholars and officials talk about ... the party's thoughts during each historical period, and the latest political and economic policies made by central party decision-makers, including the background and tasks of the 11th Five-Year Programme.
'[They can also hear about] social problems the party struggles with and the development trend of private enterprise in China.'
The courses have proved so popular that Mr Liu has doubled his intake and put on extra programmes at a time when his competitors are fighting declining interest in business education.
This month, 80 entrepreneurs enrolled in his training programme flew more than 1,900km from Guangdong to Beijing for the week-long course.
Mr Liu said the school's short-term training programme was attractive to many of the province's wealthy and influential businesspeople because the course covered issues that were key to doing business in a party-led country.
'No one can understand the policies of the central government better than the Central Party School. It's the party's premier training academy,' Mr Liu said.
He said it presented opportunities for entrepreneurs to interact with professors and classmates.
'It's not easy to find top-ranking professors and officials to guide your business and build up a network with other entrepreneurs,' he said. 'The training is very efficient because they can learn political and economic trends by day, and make friends at night.'
The last intake was lectured by Chen Qingtai, former dean of the School of Public Policy and Management and a former vice-president of the State Council's Development Research Centre.
Mr Liu is just one agent channeling businesspeople to the school's non-degree training courses. More than 10,000 private entrepreneurs throughout the country have participated in the programmes and the number is expected to grow.
Many trainees said the Central Party School's brand name and networking opportunities motivated them to apply.
But Shi Jingming, vice-chairman of Guangdong Guo Bang Investment Co, said people should not expect too much from the programme. He said the tutors did not offer surprising background information on the party, and information about the latest policies and conflicts was conservative.
'It's interesting to listen to the former officials because their attitudes on politics and economics are very close to the central government's view,' Mr Shi said. 'But the programme only sheds light on understanding the nation and can't offer practical ways to expand your business. Besides, a six-day course is also too short to build valid friendships with others.'
But he thought the training was still worth the time and money.
'For less than 7,000 yuan - including air fare and accommodation - you can get a diploma from the party's premier training academy and the chance to meet former senior officials,' he said.