“走出去”的挑战和机遇 / Going Global: Challenges and Opportunities

“走出去”的挑战和机遇

我在香港的第一任老板是天津人,既睿智又富有洞察力。他在上世纪70年代中期曾提醒我,不要落入众多西方的中国问题专家的陷阱。这些人常被蔑称为“中国观察家”,因为他们总是忙于占卜中国的政治走向,预测哪个领导人或领导团体能够执掌大权。相反,老板建议我研读政府政策和规划中的基本方向,并随潮流而动。

多年来这个忠告对我大有裨益,即使到了今天仍然十分灵验。

2011年开始的第十二个五年计划在中国和全世界都引发了诸多兴趣和讨论。该计划的首要任务包括调节经济发展的不平衡、开发西部及中等城市、扩大消费经济、继续完善养老、社保和医疗体制、平衡发展速度和环保的关系、推进中国金融资本市场改革、为中小企业和非公企业提供平等竞争环境、人民币国际化等内容。

对中资企业而言,另一个最大的兴趣点依然是“走出去”。

20年前跨国投资之所以进入中国,一个令人信服的理由就是中国必将成为重要的规模市场,企业一旦不能在中国取得成功,它在全球的竞争实力势必也会遭到削弱。

随着全球化影响的加深,这一断言已被证实。如今风水轮流转,很多中国大型企业也面临着同样的挑战:为保持长期竞争实力和成功,他们也需要建立并实施全球化的战略。

现有的广泛共识是,中企“走出去”的最大绊脚石是缺乏资本,而这一资本指的并非是金融资本,而是人力资本。

如今英文好的中国青年正在快速上位,其中也包括具备海外学习和生活经历的人在内。这是一种非常积极的变化,因为语言能力毕竟是必不可少的工具之一。

据估计,现在大约有3亿内地学生正在学习英语。另一项调查也表明,中国学习高级英语的人数已经超过了350万,而且今后3至4年还会成倍地增长。

事实上,英语国家(美国、英国、加拿大、澳大利亚、爱尔兰、新西兰)的国内生产总值(GDP)占全球25%以上,英语仍是商界最有效的沟通语言。此外,南亚和东南亚国家的英语普及程度较高,欧洲也有40%的人讲英语(讲法语的只占19%)。所以这一事实无可争议。

第二个重要的工具是跨文化技巧,这需要通过海外生活和工作经验、培训或二者兼顾才能获得。

第三个要求是与职业相关的能力和经验。

第四是长期远赴他乡生活、工作的愿望和动力。

关于第四点,在上一代中国人身上已经发生了巨大的变化。15年前,海外派遣还被广泛视为稀缺而难得的机会,但现在却被当成了苦差。特别是当中企向偏远的欠发达地区,而不是伦敦、悉尼、巴黎、纽约等世界级城市扩张时,这一点就显得尤为真实。

但问题是,对剑指全球的中企来说,要想觅到足够数量的具备上述全部四项条件的人才,几乎是不可能的,除非能找到新的根本解决办法。

很多年轻的中国“富二代”通过海外学习和工作获得了良好的语言、文化和工作技能。但他们中又有多少愿意去海外生活、并为别人的事业打拼呢?这是个仁者见仁,智者见智的问题。何况人们无论来自何方,终究哪儿也比不上家好。(还有我们必须面对一个事实:离大中华区越远,就越难找到好的中餐。)

未来10到15年,中国面临的机遇和挑战将与培养和储备适应“走出去”大潮所需的人才休戚相关。

随之而来的是,中国对公立及私立教育体制、企业和职业培训辅导、其他人才开发渠道的需求也将大幅提升。

私立英语学习机构,以及(SAT、GRE、GMAT等考试的)相关备考班在中国已然形成了朝阳产业,年消费达到50亿美元。

和语言能力一样,年轻人也需要上述其它技能和动力作为“走出去”的重要工具。而后者从某种程度上讲,也是教育的副产品。

鉴此种种,人力资源开发将无可争辩地成为中国未来几年增长最快的产业。

Going Global: Challenges and Opportunities

My first boss in Hong Kong, a wise and insightful gentleman from Tianjin, used to advise me back in the mid-1970s not to fall into the trap of many Western China experts — often referred to pejoratively as “China watchers” — who would busy themselves trying to read the tea leaves of Chinese politics and predict which leader or group will come out on top. Instead, he suggested, study the basic directions outlined in government policy and plans, and follow the emerging big trends.

This advice has served me well over the years, and it seems as timely today as it did then.

The 12th Five-year Plan, which was begun in 2011, has generated a lot of discussion and interest in China and globally. Some of the major priorities addressed in the Plan, include rebalancing economic inequality; developing Western China and medium-sized cities; ramping up the consumption economy; further developing pensions; social security and health care systems; balancing fast growth with green strategies, kick-starting further reforms to China’s financial and capital markets; leveling the playing field for SMEs and other non SOEs; internationalization of the RMB, etc.

Another priority of huge interest to Chinese companies continues to be “Going global”.

One compelling argument which brought multinational investors to China 20 years ago was that China would become such an important market of scale that failure to succeed in China could undermine a company’s competitiveness on a global basis.

That assertion proved true, as the impact of globalization gained traction. Today, many large Chinese companies are facing the same challenge in reverse: to be competitive and successful in the long run, they need to develop and implement a global strategy.

There is widespread consensus that the biggest stumbling block in the way of Chinese companies going global is indeed a shortage of capital, but not of the financial sort. Rather, the shortage is one of human capital.

It’s true that the ranks of young Chinese with good English skills are growing fast, including those with overseas study and living experience. This is a very positive development, because language is an essential part of the necessary toolbox.

It is widely estimated that some 300 million mainland students are currently studying English. Other research suggests that the number of advanced English learners in China is already in excess of 3.5 million and capable of doubling within the next 3-4 years.

Given the fact that the English-speaking world (US, Britain, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand ) represents more than 25% of global GDP, English is still the most widely useful language in business. Add to that the widespread English ability in South and Southeast Asian countries, and the fact that 40% of Europeans speak English (versus 19% Francophone); and there is no real room for debate.

The second essential tool is cross-cultural skills, acquired through overseas living and working experience, training, or a combination of both.

The third requirement is job-related abilities and experience.

Fourth is the desire and motivation to live and work far away from home, possibly for extended periods of time.

On this fourth point there has been a significant change in China during the past generation. Unlike 15 years ago when an overseas assignment was widely considered a rare and precious opportunity, today it’s equally likely to be viewed as a hardship post. This is especially true as Chinese companies expand into more remote, lesser developed areas of the world, as opposed to world-class cities like London, Sydney, Paris or New York.

The point is that for Chinese companies with global plans, finding sufficient numbers of talented people with all four of these key attributes is going to be impossible unless radical new solutions are found.

Plenty of young “wealthy second generation” Chinese have the language, cultural, and job skills, acquired by studying and working overseas. However, how many of them have the desire and motivation to live overseas and build someone else’s business? That’s a very different question. And after all, no matter where you’re from, there’s no place like home. (And let’s face it, the further you go from Greater China, the more difficult it is to find good Chinese food.)

One of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the next 10-15 years in China relates to preparing the necessary ranks of human capital to cope with the big emerging trends like going global.

This will place huge demands on the Chinese public and private education system as well as all forms of corporate and vocational training, coaching and other channels of developing talent.

Private study of the English language, and related test preparation (SAT, GRE, GMAT etc.) services — is a booming business in China, already in the range of US$5 billion in annual consumer spending.

As much as English language skills are an essential part of the going global toolbox, young people will also need the other skills mentioned above, and the motivation, which is also a by-product of education to some extent.

All things considered, the development of human capital will arguably be the biggest growth industry in China for many years to come.


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