Chinese firms, schools offer training to overseas talents aspiring to profit from Belt & Road Initiative

By Shan Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/26 18:28:40

More job opportunities await people from B&R countries who speak Chinese and have e-biz know-how


Chinese companies are cooperating with universities to foster talents in Belt and Road countries

The cooperation will reduce the cost of overseas employment, as salaries for local employees are lower than Chinese staff

Experts say Chinese educational institutions should improve their competitiveness to attract foreign students

 

Students from Belt and Road countries learn Chinese from teachers in Yiwu, East China's Zhejiang Province. Photo: VCG

 

Yang Yu, a Chinese language instructor from Northwest University of Shaanxi Province, is about to finish her most recent assignment at a Chinese oil company in Kyrgyzstan before heading back to China in May.

The teacher, who works at the university's School of International Cultural Exchange, left for the central-Asian country in December 2017 and currently teaches about 100 Kyrgyz students, all employees of Zhongda China Petrol Company.

Besides Yang, another two teachers from Northwest University are also preparing to teach their knowledge of the chemical industry at the oil company. The training project, jointly initiated by Northwest University and Zhongda China Petrol Company in 2014, aims to train 1,000 talents in Kyrgyzstan in order to help the company to "step out."

Wang Yuan, an employee at the International Student Admissions of the Northwest University, revealed to the Global Times that currently they also have 140 students from five Belt and Road countries on Chinese campus, most of whom are studying international trade. They are expected to serve Chinese companies in the future.

These students enjoy scholarships and are getting used to their lives here, especially Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan's Dungan students, whose mother language is also the Shaanxi dialect, Wang said.

In recent years, Chinese universities have been closely cooperating with Chinese companies to accelerate "localization."

Experts say that, apart from resolving a shortage of technical personnel for Chinese companies and a lack of communication with local people, the cooperation to train foreign students is also a long-term Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project to "win the hearts of locals."

Company-driven training programs

In the past, Chinese companies have encountered difficulties finding senior managers capable of running their overseas projects.

The managers the companies hired were usually very loyal to their companies but they could hardly grasp the foreign culture, rules and language, especially knowledge about international finance and tax administration, reported the Yangzi River Daily.

"We still lag behind European, American and Japanese companies in international talents," said Mao Hongtao, Party secretary of a company under China First Metallurgical Group Co., who has worked in India for six years.

"When we are sitting behind the negotiating table, we feel we lack support, because we lack international senior executives," he said, emphasizing the necessity to foster international B&R talents.

Now the situation is changing. A Tajikistan-based Chinese mining company recently announced its plans to cultivate 100 locals from Tajikistan at a university in Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

According to the plan, Kunming University of Science and Technology in Yunnan Province and Hunan Research Institute for Nonferrous Metals will attract students from Tajikistan for the Tajik-Chinese Mining Company under Shanghai-based Tibet Summit Resources Co, according to a statement sent to the Global Times from Tibet Summit.

"After studying the Chinese language and mining-related knowledge, qualified students will have the opportunity to work for the Tajik-Chinese Mining Company," Huang Jianrong, chairman from the Tibet Summit told the Beijing-based Securities Times.

The cooperation will effectively lower the cost of employment, as the salaries for local employees are lower than employees from China, the securities representative of the Tibet Summit, surnamed Yan, told the Global Times.

"Currently the company has 2,000 employees from China, and 1,000 from Tajikistan. We would like to have more Tajik employees instead of Chinese in the future, to save costs," Yan said.

According to the company, the project answers the call of the BRI and meets the needs of the company to promote industry development in Tajikistan. It also helps with local employment and fosters local scientific and technical personnel.

The Tajik-Chinese Mining Company is currently the largest Chinese-invested company in Tajikistan, owning more than 10 million tons of lead-zinc resources, according to its official website.

"In the future, more Tajikistanians who know Chinese will join the company, which could further promote the company's investment and development in Central Asia. They also help us to become more familiar with local policies and customs," read the company's statement.

"As some B&R countries are still unfamiliar with Chinese culture, it is necessary to promote education and communication to deepen our mutual understanding of each other" Lu Jing, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations, told the Global Times.

"It is very practical for companies to maintain talents based on their real needs."

 

Communication and cooperation

"How do I sell my fruits and farm products online?" "Can I sell car accessories on the Chinese internet?" "What kind of packing attracts Chinese consumers more?"

These and many other questions from 20 Kazakh entrepreneurs were answered during an e-commerce training class in Xi'an, capital city of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on April 18. Most were in the fruits, flavors, honey, machinery manufacturing and construction industries.

The e-commerce training class targeting entrepreneurs from Kazakhstan was held in the sub-campus of Taobao University at China (Shaanxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone in Xi'an, Xi'an Daily reported.

Taobao University is the core education department of Alibaba, China's online trade tycoon. The training class, under the BRI, will lead Kazakh entrepreneurs to better understand the initiative and allow them to conduct e-commerce along the B&R countries.

Lecturers from Taobao University will also introduce the development and market opportunity of China's e-commerce as well as the methods of conducting cross-border online trade. The entrepreneurs were desperate to learn from the lecturers, even if they could only communicate through Russian interpreters, China Radio International reported.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education showed that in 2016 there were 207,746 overseas students from B&R countries, studying in China, an increase of 13.6 percent compared with 2015. The figures also revealed that students from B&R countries received 61 percent of Chinese government scholarships.

"In the long term, Chinese universities will win over the hearts and minds of B&R countries by fostering international talents, which consolidates the whole initiative," Lu noted.

A West African Student Center cooperating with five universities from Ghana was opened in April 2017 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China. East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai also initiated a high-end talent project for overseas law students from B&R countries, Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Wei Po reported.

Chu Zhaohui, a research fellow at the National Institute of Educational Sciences, warned that even though this kind of cooperation is gaining momentum, existing problems should not be overlooked.

"The cooperation has had some problems that have caused some foreign students to leave China before they finished their courses," Chu said. "As far as I know, some students from the B&R countries quit the four-year program after only one or two years in China."

"They go to other countries to continue their studies. They told me that they found the courses in China are not attractive enough," he said.

Chu noted that, apart from offering student scholarships, China should improve the effectiveness and quality of the education it provides to foreign students, so that these education cooperation programs will become more attractive to overseas students and achieve greater results in the long term.

The universities should focus more on meeting the needs of companies and local countries in fostering international talents, as well as increase the proportion of self-funded international students, as currently many students are funded by the Chinese government, he added.

Lu said that Chinese universities should continue to integrate with the international education community, so that China's education will become more recognized by the world.


Newspaper headline: Buckling the belt


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