How Critical is Being Able to Speak Chinese? Ask Richard Ong

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 3:34
Posted in category The Big Picture

A bit off our normal topic range, when I saw the FT article Goldman executive hits China barrier I knew All Roads readers needed to see it.

Over my almost 6 years in China I have run into many who thought that they did not need Chinese in China, and in Shanghai there are more who will say that than in Beijing. Part of this is due to the dynamic environment in Shanghai, and the fact that more than ever there are a lot of people who have just arrived.

They go to networking events at the Portman, eat on the Bund, and entertain themselves on Tongren Road, and in all of these areas English has become almost the official language. Waiters, secretaries, back office staff, and Starbucks clerks are English capable on some level.. and it seems easy.

It seems even easier if their sales targets and direct reports are also foreigners as well.

However, for many companies and industries, Chinese skills are important, and Richard Ong has become a public example of this. What is surprising to me is that he had 6 months in Beijing and was not able to get up to speed in time….

Bottom line, returning Chinese and halfpats are becoming more and more attractive as the usefulness expats of old diminishes. Tat is not to say an executive with 35 years of experience should be turned away, but many firms simply do not need externals to build organizations…. they need locals to sustain and expand them.

For more on learning Chinese, visit our post Websites: Online Tools for Chinese Language

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