Training a class of 32 young foreign employees in leadership is another sign of Alibaba Group's ambitious strategy for overseas expansion.
The students, from 14 nations, are set to spend a year at the Alibaba Global Leadership Academy at company headquarters in Hangzhou. There, they will engage in hands-on leadership training, cultural immersion and industry tours, and serve rotational assignments in different business units. The first class began in October.
When the training is completed, they will be sent to company offices in the United States, United Kingdom, continental Europe, India and Southeast Asia, where Alibaba has a growing presence.
The academy aims to train participants with both a global vision and a deeper understanding of China, according to Brian Wong, the Alibaba vice-president who oversees the program.
The training "will help the company build a strong foundation for our future international footprint. It also shows what Chinese companies are doing to engage with the rest of the world", said Wong.
It is a gateway to "building trust and mutual understanding for a meaningful global impact", according to company Chairman Jack Ma. Alibaba has set an ambitious goal of serving 2 billion customers globally and having 40 percent of its sales from overseas in the coming decade.
They graduated from leading universities like Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, and were selected based on stringent criteria like learning ability, strategic and innovative thinking, and cultural fit for the company.
Gary Topp, a 31-year old MBA graduate from the University of Chicago, said the combination of the education and the chance to work in one of China's most exciting companies makes for an attractive experience.
"I just came back from a company tour to the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. It's amazing to see how advanced e-commerce and internet finance are in the development of China's rural areas," said Topp, who previously worked for rating agency Moody's in London and New York before joining in Alibaba.
French associate Isabelle Kam said, "The program, which includes teaching Chinese history, economics and politics, makes me better understand Chinese culture and the market, and I get to feel the social impact of Alibaba." Kam said she expects to be sent to Paris after finishing the program.
Xu Jian, founder of Decide Consulting, a human resources firm, said the academy shows Chinese firms are becoming a major draw for high-caliber international talent.