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Forward looking
By DAI TIANJIAO (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-10-13 07:59

Wuxi, the Yangtze River Delta city and tourist site famous for Taihu Lake, is undergoing an economic transformation.

According to Wu Fengfeng, secretary-general of Wuxi municipal government, it's urgent that the city spurs the development of high-end service industries in order to push the manufacturing industry to a higher level.

"Without backing from service industries, the advanced development of secondary and hi-tech industries is unimaginable," Wu said at a recent press conference.

"At present, the service industry is taking up a relatively low part of the GDP, 40.1 percent in 2007, 42 percent right now, and we aim to achieve 45 percent in the future," he said. Wuxi has also set the goal of having the high-end service industry comprise more than 70 percent of the entire service sector.

Pursuing environmentally-friendly economic growth was another key issue during the 2008 China (Wuxi) International Cooperation Forum for Commercial Associations, held on September 18.

Commercial associations and institutions for international trade promotion should cooperate to tackle the increasingly obvious environmental and energy issues, in order to maintain the sustainable development of the world economy, said Wan Jifei, chairman of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), in the key note speech.

Apart from being the largest photovoltaic industry base in China, Wuxi also features a strong wind power industry.

Han Wei, vice-chairman of China Association of Environmental Protection Industry, underlined the role of environmental protection in adjusting the industrial structure.

"Senior Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once said: 'A cat no matter whether is's black or white is a good cate so long as it catches mice'," Han said in his speech at the conference, "but now, we can say that a green cat is definitely a good cat, given the importance of energy conservation, reducing emissions and the escalation of technology, industry and products".

Service outsourcing

The Wuxi Taihu Protection Zone is the first State-level model district built primarily for the service outsourcing industry. In 2007, the total value of service outsourcing in Wuxi surpassed $570 million. Newly developed outsourcing enterprises in Wuxi reached 306, with a total of 20,000 employees.

According to Zhou Ming, standing vice-president of China Council for International Investment Promotion (CCIIP), $950 billion was spent worldwide last year on outsourcing, and the total is expected to exceed $1 trillion in 2008. The annual growth rate of Information technology outsourcing will reach 5.8 percent, and business process outsourcing will reach 10 percent between 2006 and 2010.

Among the contracts signed at the 2008 Asia Pacific Service Outsourcing International Conference in Wuxi was one signed with the Wuxi government by SmithStreetSolutions (SSS), a services outsourcing firm based in Shanghai with locations in New York City and Nanjing. As a major player in Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) in China, SSS expanded its business to Wuxi with the contract.

"Outsourcing fundamentally involves finding the right people in the right location to do the right job," says Robin Kerawala, chief client officer of SSS, "KPO is predicated upon finding the smartest and best prepared people in the world to perform work which is intellectually challenging."

Talents will be recruited and trained for Wuxi businesses, with local educational institutes such as Jiangnan University providing the talent pool.

"In China, the KPO industry is in uncharted territory and firms like SmithStreetSolutions are capitalizing on the broad access to hard-working, well-educated talent," says Kerawala.

According to Kerawala, China's rapidly improving higher education system, a large amount of graduates with fluent English skills, and growing domestic demands for KPO constitute the drive for this type of outsourcing industry.

"China needs to better market itself as a KPO destination; it has the English skills for KPO, but it has to get the word out to the world," he says. "China can also improve its positioning in the KPO industry by encouraging creative thinking and by continuing to improve and expand its excellent education system."

Last September the Wuxi government initiated 123 projects for service outsourcing. They are expected to attract 100 international enterprises, with over 2,000 employees for each company, and more than $30 million annual exports.

Luc Poppe, chairman of Daisy Trade and Consultants Ltd, who delivered a speech on "Trends of outsourcing in the new global economic environment" during the Asia Pacific Service Outsourcing International Conference, commented on the prospects of China's outsourcing industry.

"I think one of the biggest assets of China is its abundance of young and emerging talent, eager to learn and willing to work beyond limits." he says, "China still has to invest more in training and management capabilities. It's not enough to have a bright idea and a couple of hardworking people to just start a company."

Experience, long-term vision, management capability and motivation are needed in order to successfully run a business, according to the Belgian who has lived in China for 12 years.

(China Daily 10/13/2008 page10)