President Xi Jinping and first lady Peng Liyuan arrive in Hamburg, Germany, on July 6, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]
After successfully hosting the G20 in 2016, China's participation in the G20 in Hamburg this year may prove an important next step to further integrate and lead important global developments. As former US vice-minister for energyProfessor Terrance Sandalow vividly expressed during his Beijing trip last year, China is now holding a mirror to the rest of the world. China's vision for an emerging world order may be less fiction and soon more reality.
The topics discussed during the G20 are often large and abstract, as is the case this year. The focus is on globalization, free trade, stability and reforms to improve the world's response to crisis. The latter is of interest, especially from a Chinese perspective.
According to Chen Fengying from China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, China is expected to outline possible solutions to questions of globalization and sustainable development. In my opinion, with the seeming retreat of the United Statesfrom the global stage by President Donald Trump, there may be an important role and, perhaps, opportunity for China's government to step into discussions such as security, international trade and climate change. Two major policy initiatives with global ambitions – and consequences – stand out: the Belt and Road Initiative and Made in China 2025.
China's Belt and Road Initiative is clearly positioning China as a leader for globalization in Eurasia. More broadly, Chinese companies have been going global for a while now and innovations from China are starting to reach the US and Europe. If China's Belt and Road Initiative succeeds in entering markets in Eurasia, China will be able to leverage large (emerging) markets while also having a foothold in advanced markets. However, China needs to develop the international talent needed to operate and lead all those initiatives, companies and organizations.
Similarly, the Made in China 2025 initiative is focused on making China a global leader of smart manufacturing. With a strong manufacturing base, plenty of capital, an army of entrepreneurs, scalability in the domestic market and a science and engineering tradition, China is well-positioned. In particular, Chinese companies are well-positioned to drive the IT transformation in technologies such as Internet of Things, big data and the cloud. While Silicon Valley used to be the place to go, China's new generation of change makers is increasingly attracting investors and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley to China nowadays. However, the Made in China 2025 initiative requires a strong innovative talent pool.
An innovative global talent pool can be built several ways. First, China's domestic education is strong and improving, but a deeper and more widespread reform on educational methodologies is required. The future is not in routine tasks and standardized operations, it is in complex problem solving, cross-cultural skills and creative thinking. An educational system that combines strong basic training in combination with problem solving and creativity will prove to be a winner. Second, China's universities need to step up their initiative to attract foreign students. Not just for Chinese language or short term exchanges but for degree programs in all subjects. Why can a Chinese university not become a preferred choice for international students? Third, bringing back overseas Chinese students and alumni can reverse the brain drain. China has been effective in this and an increasing number of students are indeed coming back to China. While attractive policies are still the dominant reason, local opportunities are increasingly important. Fourth, sustainable, long term job opportunities for foreign talent in China will be crucial. While the recent reforms for work permits for foreigners are a step in the right direction, the key question is how to get the top talent to China in the first place. Why can China not be the preferred choice to work and live for international talent?
China has neither the ability nor the intent to challenge the US global leadership position, and nobody wins if relations between China and the US sour. But, as an educator I think the main opportunity for China is to strive to become a leader in innovative global talent development and successfully implement the Belt and Road and Made in China 2025 initiatives.
(Mark Greeven is an associate professor at the Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategy Department of Zhejiang University's School of Management.)