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China’s new bosses

Publicerad: 9 Oktober 2006, 05:53

Christine Loh from Civic Exchange estimates that China needs 75,000 new managers who understand the global market. In this interview she explains why.

At a recent conference in Sweden, Christine Loh, founder and CEO of Civic Exchange in Hongkong, predicted that China will have to hire thousands of managers from western countries to handle new systems in areas such as management, information, and marketing.
"An important challenge for China is to find enough middle to top ranking managers to cope with global markets. According to a 2005 report from the McKinsey Institute, China currently has 3,000-5,000 managers who seem to understand global markets.However, it will need 75,000 within 10-15 years. One way for China to fill this gap within the next decade is to consider hiring people from outside China. This will require both the Chinese companies and foreigners who want to work for Chinese companies to spend time on understanding cultural issues to be able to work together."

Can China's tremendous growth continue?
"There are various points of view. Chinese planners, who come from a central-planning perspective, aim for 7-9% GDP growth a year. Others say the rate of growth will naturally slow, while yet others say even at a lower rate of growth, the actual impact will be substantial because of China's enormous size."
"Then there is the issue about the 'quality' of China's growth. After all, GDP calculations include destructive activities, such as environmental degradation, as well as healthcare expenses arising from China's poor environmental health. My view is that China will continue to achieve strong GDP growth, but the main thing is to assess the quality of that growth to see where real advancements are being made and where the GDP has to be discounted because of degradation."

Will the environmental degradation, that has been the result of the economic growth, continue?
"The cost to human health from air pollution accounts for up to 3% of GDP. In the country's largest eleven cities, approximately 50,000 people die prematurely and 400,000 suffer from chronic respiratory problems every year as a result of air pollution. So, China's future development must take the environment and public health into account. After all, spending on cleaning up will also spur quality GDP growth."

Why are "the green Olympic Games" in 2008 so important to China?
"The reason the Olympics are important to China is that Beijing leaders believe China is doing very well economically and in its rising international stature. Therefore, it needs to play host to a major event to showcase China's achievements. Hosting the Olympic Games in 2008 (its first attempt was 2004) is like a 'coming out' party for China's leadership."
"One of the promises Beijing made to the IOC was that the games would be 'green' because people knew China suffered from bad pollution. The problem is that Beijing today is more polluted than when it won the right to host the Olympic Games! This means China has to work extremely hard to clean up between now and 2008, and the challenges remain very serious. Like Mexico City before, athletes may stay outside of China and Beijing until the very last moment."

What is the Chinese leaders' view of climate change?
"Chinese leaders are today very aware of energy usage, and the need for energy conservation and energy efficiency in China. They are also very aware of the problems of air pollution, which is mainly caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. Thus, it is clear to them that there is a connection between energy and air quality."
"As for climate, there are increasing reports about the impact of climate change, such as more droughts, more severe storms, and also the glaciers receding in China, where its great rivers rise in the western part of the country. That is why there is a new effort to achieve much greater energy efficiency in the next 5 years. Also, China understands that it must continue to rely on coal for power, which is why it is interested in promoting clean coal technologies in China, as well as seeing how carbon capture and sequestration projects can be experimented with in China."

What technologies is China looking for?
"Apart from eenergy efficiency technologies and products, clean coal, and carbon capture and storage, China is interested in renewables, as well as water efficiency technologies."

How would you characterize China's new 5-year plan?
"I find the eleventh 5-Year Plan to be an advancement, particularly in the area of energy. China has stated explicitly that it wants to improve energy efficiency by 20% between now and 2010 as well as increase renewable energy dramatically. Its energy efficiency drive, through the state-owned enterprises, as well as many local businesses working in this area, has created targets to be met."

How will China handle its carbon dioxide emissions?
"In China, we need to look at air pollution emissions in total and not just look at carbon, as one of China's goals is to improve air quality. Thus, it is trying to install flue gas desulphurisation equipment in the large power plants throughout China. It is trying to switch to using more gas, particularly in richer urban areas, such as Guangdong and Shanghai for both power and transportation. Gas has lower carbon emissions although the aim is to reduce all air pollutants. As for clean coal and CCS technologies, which will reduce carbon emissions, these are still being experimented with."

How can European countries cooperate with China in energy, water and other environmentally related areas?
"For example, the EU and China entered into an energy agreement in 2005 that calls for exchanges as well as to build a CCS demonstration plant in China. These sorts of bilateral relations are useful if both sides dedicate the time and resources to make it happen."

Will China be able to cope with the challenges in economic growth, resource efficiency and environmental and human rights issues?
"I personally believe that China can best meet its development challenge by being resource-efficient. This means it will reduce its overall energy costs, as well as reduce its long-term costs for cleaning up, including keeping its citizens healthy. Issues of quality growth, using energy much more efficiently and human rights (particularly the right to good health) are all interconnected. As I said, China has an interest in restoring its environment because without a healthy natural environment, all other socio-economic activities are compromised in the longer term. Moreover, a clean environment will also reduce the risk of international conflicts – China's air pollution has already reached California!"
Av Valter Bengtsson

(Artikeln publiceras även i Sustainability Sweden, ett nytt magasin om hållbar affärsutveckling som ges ut av Dagens Miljö, IDG.)

Miljöaktuellt, redaktionen

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