CHINA / Regional

Foreign professionals in great demand
By Li Wenfang and Liang Qiwen (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-30 06:37

GUANGZHOU: There will be greater demand for foreign professionals in fields such as manufacturing, English teaching and overseas marketing in Guangzhou, the capital of South China's Guangdong Province, in coming years.

Robust economic growth, efforts to improve the city's international appeal and the staging of the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou have all contributed to the internationalization of the city, according to Chen Like, director of Guangzhou Municipal Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.

With the municipal government projecting an average 12 per cent annual economic growth, and industrial output set to double over the next five years, demand for related foreign professionals is set to grow.

The city has identified several key industrial growth sectors automotive, shipbuilding, petroleum, chemicals, and iron and steel in which foreign input may be needed.

Foreign-funded companies are planning to boost numbers of expatriates in their Guangzhou operations, while State-owned and local privately owned firms are also seeking foreign professionals to enhance their corporate management and overseas marketing capabilities, said Peng Wei, deputy director of the administration.

A local State-owned firm that hired foreigners for quality control and sales has, for example, successfully gained a significant share of the US market.

At the same time, Guangzhou's schools are crying out for more foreign English teachers to improve spoken English as the language becomes more important in the workplace and in the lead-up to the Asian Games.

According to Peng, foreign professionals made around 30,000 trips to Guangzhou each year.

They are engaged in the business, technical, educational, cultural and sports sectors.

The municipal government has also announced that Guangzhou will draw around 10,000 overseas Chinese scholars over the next five years.

The contribution made by foreign professionals is well recognized, Chen said.

For example, a reception was held last week in honour of Maureen Patricia Stratford, who's been working in Guangzhou for 10 years.

Stratford is an expert educator of children suffering Down's syndrome; she relocated to Guangzhou from Nottingham in the United Kingdom 10 years ago with her late husband after they retired.

"I just did what I can do Guangzhou is a wonderful city and I enjoyed the life here," Stratford said at the reception held by the club for Down's syndrome children she helped to establish.

Down's syndrome is a congenital disorder with clinical attributes such as moderate to severe mental retardation, a broad short skull, broad hands and short fingers.

"We appreciate her help to our family. I hope that more foreign experts like her could come to work in China," said Huang Haiying, a mother of a 15-year-old boy with Down's syndrome.

Guangzhou Municipal Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs said there's no problem finding foreign professionals; but with limited resources, establishing a database of potential candidates is difficult.

Headhunting firms that set up deals to bring out foreign professionals make low profit margins at the moment, given the relatively small volume.

In order to attract foreign professionals, businesses will have to strike a balance between turning a profit with the assistance of overseas workers and how much they can afford to pay them.

According to Chen, schools will need to distinguish between qualified English teachers and English speakers.

(China Daily 03/30/2006 page3)