Alumni Interview Nov 2018
Alumni Interview, Joe Li.

Joe Li, Class of 2017


Brief Introduction of Joe

Joe Zhankan Li is a Dutch-Chinese Global MBA Alumni who has studied at NTU between 2015 and 2017. Right before he left Taiwan for Japan, he has written a book: “Analysis of Global Inequality (貧富差距的經濟學)”. The book examines the historical course of global inequality and explores the drivers behind the increasing income disparity since 1980. The book is released in Taiwan in February 2018.

1. What is your job now?  As a Dutch-Chinese, why you choose to study in Taiwan then work in Japan?


For some time before I came to Taiwan, I had been thinking about my job as an analyst by the time. My personal targets and future perspective make it necessary for me to look for another challenge in my career. An MBA degree at NTU may satisfy my hunger for a new step. NTU is not only generally considered as a leading University in Asia, but its educational quality in different specific fields (under which also Global MBA) also tops various rankings as well.


I now work for a Japanese Factory Automation components supplier headquartered in Tokyo, after being graduated from Global MBA in 2017. Now I am mainly responsible for business alliances with global IT platform companies in order to make win-win partnerships happen between a content provider (Factory automation component supplier) and platform providers (IT platforms). At the same time, I also write economic articles for China Times, sharing some basic economic theories in simple language and my insights about the current global economic situations.


Well, the choice for Japan was a combination of accidental circumstances. The right offer which requires the right skillset came at the right time. In fact, I never feel I must live or work in a certain country. Before coming to Taiwan and Japan, I lived in the Netherlands, China, and Australia as well.


2. What are your most precious moments in GMBA?  Can you tell me the difference between you, before and after GMBA?


Actually, in a way, NTU GMBA made a huge impact on my life, and I am happy to say I am now a changed person since my first day after graduation.


First, I did not only play the role of a student in NTU Global MBA, but I was also Vice President of the Student Council for Community. My main role was trying to connect Global MBA with the business enterprises in Taiwan by organizing events and speeches. I went to different social events in Taipei to make connections and to promote Global MBA to the business world. I also had to collaborate with my team members and delegate jobs in order to make things happen. That is pretty different from my previous job as an analyst, who stared at figures on the screen all the time.


Also, I feel stronger after Global MBA simply because I know more. I very much regret not being able to study different academic fields during my college time. As a work professional before coming over to Taiwan, I could only consider reading academic articles as a way to release my work stress and to enrich my life. “Enjoyment” in knowledge was a pitiful lack until I joined NTU Global MBA. This program brought me back to the academic world.

3. Thesis seems to be a nightmare to some of the students but you don’t think it this way.  You wrote a book “Analysis of Income Inequality” which is the best seller for weeks and this book was actually inspired by your thesis, how can you do that?


Actually, in a way it was much easier to write that book than my thesis because it was written as a book in conversation with public readers rather than an academic paper. Rather than reasoning and data analytics, I focus more on storytelling and my insights on global inequality in that book.

I was Economics majored in college. The more I read and I know about economics, the more I realize this is a world full of contradiction. While the nominal world GDP has doubled since 2003, has our happiness and quality of life doubled too? While our wealth, GDP, and productivity hit a historical high every year, so deteriorates the global income polarization in recent years as well. While many work hard for some printed banknotes, National banks could simply print some money by pushing some buttons without increasing any concrete property. These are perfect examples of how ironical the world economy is.

As a student of NTU, I could access different online databases with an NTU VPN account. With those valuable data and instruction from my thesis advisor Professor Chia-Wei Kuo, I was able to test my hypotheses in mind with data and make my analytics as a thesis. Then I just summarized my thesis findings and translated into Chinese. I sent them over to different publishers and I ended up collaborating with China Times (時報出版). The book was published days before Chinese New Year 2018.

The book examines the historical course of income inequality since the first industrial revolution until today and explores the present increasing polarization of wealth distribution with its drivers behind.


4. After all, what are you going to do next?


I never have a very concrete goal that I would like to achieve in my life. Rather than a specific goal, I always consider diversity in experiences and the creation of extraordinary moments as the most important things in my life. That is exactly the reason why I came from the Netherlands and I went to Taiwan for Global MBA, and work in Japan for a living right now. Although I am happy since I live in Tokyo and travel around in Asia, I am sure I will be ready for a new challenge sooner or later. Now I work in the manufacturing industry in Asia, I see a great shift of supply chain and other manufacturing-related opportunities shifting from mainland China to South-East Asia, the economic miracle of manufacturing in China may repeat in Vietnam or Thailand as well. Who knows my opportunities in the future may rise there?

But I really have a bigger academic dream in mind. As a big Chinese culture lover, I know that less than 30% of Oracle bone script (甲骨文) were successfully translated out of 150,000 oracle bones found. I wish someday I will be back to the academic world deepening in Sinology and oracle bone script translation. Who knows NTU will bring me back to the academic world again.