2009 is a special year for China. It marks 30 years of economic reform and liberation from the point when Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping first suggested that China needed to adopt a new economic outlook; which it has done in stunning fashion, climaxing in the recent Olympic Games. Who would have thought that such a feat would have been achievable in the post Mao era?
Over the last 2000 years China has come full circle in terms of its world GDP share and must continue to build on this. In the last year an awful lot has taken place which may knock China's progress. More likely than not, however, China will have a bigger presence than ever on the world stage in coming years, be it through economic or environmental innovation,or the overall creation of a prosperous future for its people.
There is no doubt that whatever happens, China will be a force to be reckoned with. Even if demand from developed countries fall this year it still has its own market for goods and services: the Chinese middle class who are growing in number at an astonishing rate. Today there are no less than a hundred cities each boasting over a million inhabitants, yet there is tremendous room for further growth as over 70% of Chinese still live and work in rural areas. Because of this, nearly every City job will be affected by China's growth in some way. Even if you feel completely detached from China, it's smart to find out a bit more. There are going to be big opportunities for graduates in China or with Chinese companies in the coming years.
China Career Month
If you are one of the many international students studying in the UK, you are almost certainly going to be viewed as a vital resource by many firms. The reason is simple: the skill-set of understanding two different languages and cultures as well as having specialist skills in business or engineering makes you extremely valuable. The business world is becoming ever more globalised; fast growing economies such as China will need a work force that help it build links with foreign companies and governments.
This was the reasoning behind the first ever large scale "China career month" that took place in Oxford in November 2008. The event ran as a series of weekly evening seminars, inviting a diverse range of high quality speakers covering all areas of the job market from Research & Development to strategy consulting.
The aim was to give Asian students at Oxbridge the chance to understand more about job roles and better access job opportunities in financial, consulting and technical industries. The event provided an opportunity to learn about a variety of possible career paths and gave students guidance on how to successfully get a job offer. There were four sessions: R&D and related industries; Banking, Securities and Investment; Management Consultancy and Accountancy; and Networking Skills. Several reputable speakers such as Dr. Stephen Bold, the managing director of Sharp Laboratory of Europe, and Kenneth Ge, the general manager of China Bank London Branch, were invited to interact with students and give them first-hand information about the industry they work in. The event was enormously successful with a high turnout rate. Student feedback indicated that the talks and workshops helped in broadening their horizons and enhancing their skills.
We all know about the current economic crisis, that's old news, but how many of us stop to think about the less obvious threat that climate change poses to future economic growth? We are now churning 23 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere annually. The frightening thing is not just this but the rate of increase (5 billion just in the last ten years), but that over two thirds of that increase was due to the growth of China.
If this continues then it is almost certain that by 2050 we will see at least a two degree increase in global temperature. This has grave ramifications: an increase in ocean warming and hurricane formation and raising sea levels that threaten low lying countries such as Bangladesh. If we continue to adopt the "business as usual" attitude climate change will pose a realistic existential threat to humans.
So why is all this relevant to students? Firstly, it means that even in our lifetime the effects of climate change will be felt. Secondly, there this is a crisis but there are many opportunities to be had for graduates in solving this problem. A huge job market can emerge from the renewable energy sector and once carbon credits and mechanisms such as CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) become more mature, there will be a big market for this too. Furthermore, these jobs will be contributing to the greater goal of acting on the climate crisis, a responsible sector, something that we haven't been seeing recently from the banking sector which seems has been adding problems rather than working to solve them.
China currently has around 20% of the world's population and accounts for 10% of the world's energy consumption. This suggests that to reach the world average China will double its energy demand, which at its current rate of growth looks highly likely. Linking this back to CO2 emissions, the environmental implications could potentially be very serious.
China is by no means oblivious to this predicament and although the Chinese government, like the US, decided against adhering to the emission reduction guidelines set out by the Kyoto protocol, it has been heavily involved in the "Clean Development Mechanism" and is beginning to take a strong interest in developing sources of renewable energy. China has become the world's largest producer of wind turbines and has built the world's largest hydroelectric dam, The Three Gorges, which extends for two kilometres and is the height of the Canary Wharf Tower. At present, however, due to the lack of technological expertise available to Chinese firms, much of the profit gained from these ventures goes to European companies. There is also a lack of cooperation on internationally linked projects between Europe and China and new way solving the challenges posed by energy shortages and climate change.
The challenge now for China if it is to reach the environmental and economic goals it has set out for itself will be to foster relationships with the West. A new educated and internationally focussed generation of business professionals will be essential if it is to achieve this.