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British business leaders are calling for Chinese to be taught at schools and universities because it has been found that the language has increasingly become the main barrier to do business in China since early 2000.
Research released in 2006 from the management consultancy Hay Group claimed that British business leaders expected to make China the UK’s most important export market, 10% of their global revenues worth sales, equivalent to £200bn a year by 2009. However, they believe that lack of language skills and understanding of the Chinese market is holding UK PLC back.

It was revealed that less than 500 graduates a year from programmes in which Mandarin is a substantial part of the degree were generated in the UK. Many Chinese MBA graduates are recruited by half of UK business leaders, to support business within China. Meanwhile, it also helps to boost their China prospects.
Deborah Allday, the author of the report, said: "We are about to face a war for talent both in China and in domestic markets as companies scramble to recruit talented leaders and managers with an understanding of the Chinese market and business culture."
The British government needs to take a fresh look at the higher and further education curriculum in this country to determine the best way to make UK graduates and UK PLC competitive in the global marketplace. This means not only introducing Chinese language teaching, but fostering an understanding of Asian culture and business practices.
"Companies who fund MBA study for employees should demand China modules on all courses. Business executives should start developing Chinese language skills now. And leaders with a track record in China should understand the value of this rare skill set."


UK business leaders are bullish about their prospects in China, with 85% of British directors viewing China as a potential opportunity and more than one third seeing China as the greatest opportunity for their business. Nevertheless, talent shortages in the UK and in China threaten UK PLC’s prospects.
British business leaders have low confidence in management ability in China, saying lack of leadership skills among Chinese executives and short of capable Chinese managers as the main difficulties to China to succeed.
Ms Allday said: "The greatest threat facing UK PLC is complacency. British business leaders and politicians should put China top of the agenda now, if we are not to lose out on sales to China worth £200bn and be threatened in our home market by leaner Chinese competitors.
"There is a widespread belief amongst UK business leaders that China will only pose a threat to the most low value goods and services. They are very much mistaken."

Sources: The Guardian; London Evening Standard
Illustrations from: www.theguardian.com

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