China is expected to become the world’s largest economy and overtake the US in GDP and purchasing power by 2016-2017, according to many market observers as well as various Chinese and foreign media reports, with some such as the Economist predicting this will occur by the end of 2014. The nation is also expected to remain the world’s manufacturing hub and will become the largest market for products purchased online, including electronics, daily necessities and even luxury goods. China’s exports and imports of goods also surpassed US$4.16 trillion in 2013 and are expected to rise another trillion to over US$5 trillion in 2014. As all these trends occur coupled with the Chinese insatiable desire to spend money, learning Chinese is now more important than ever in terms of finding a job and setting yourself up for a career, as the language will help provide a foundation for understanding and connecting with the culture, which can then later be applied to the workforce.
China has been investing massive amounts of money into the country, especially in rural areas as part of the nation’s twelfth five-year plan, in order to increase schooling and education standards, as well as alleviate poverty. The nation also aims to increase its middle class and expand its small- to medium-size business segment through local investments and incentives from local governments to meet GDP standards. As this occurs, Chinese will be looking to expand their products and services abroad or companies in the West may look to import them. Whichever the scenario may be, learning Chinese will allow you to make connections with them more easily and give you value-added skills that other people otherwise do not have to make those connections.
According to statistics in China, the nation aims to have 30% of the population enrolled in English classes by 2020. The goal behind this is to make China as much of a diversified and talented workforce as possible to compete in the global economy. China still has a way to meet this goal and it doesn’t necessarily mean that Chinese will dominate the English language as a second language on superior levels like many Europeans can, but it does mean that unless you get a head start Chinese will find opportunities before you. More so, like Chinese needing to know English to obtain more superior jobs, the same will apply for Westerners knowing Chinese in order to get a good job in the future, so denying yourself to learn a second language such as Chinese is downright foolish.
China will be the future for doing business. Not only will companies look to continue manufacturing goods there, they will also look to cooperate more with local companies as well as further understand local consumers as a means to expand their business. China plans to export more of its local petrochemicals, textiles and other electronic goods as a means to diversify its economy away from being solely a place for manufacturing and rather one of innovation and reliability, turning the old myth of “Made in China” from something negative into something positive. Working with Chinese to achieve these goals will be imperative to every industry and grasping the opportunity now is a must.
If you learn Chinese, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be a Chinese major or an East Asian Studies major. It simply means you are preparing yourself to meet the trends of now and the future, and equipping yourself with the necessary tools and value-added skills to meet demand. In North America, it creeps many people to think they need to learn another language as other countries have always gone to places such as the US to seek development, yet alone be required to learn another language all throughout school and pass tests on it in order to graduate, such is the case in China. Therefore, regardless if your major includes Chinese as a second language requirement you should take it to simply meet this common reality and not reject it just because it isn’t English.
For those who are in business for example, this is crucial. And for those who are engineers, architects, scientists or involved in technology learning Chinese on top of your major will be unbelievably important as China becomes the new Silicon Valley of Asia and perhaps even the world. China as of 2016 will have access to the most production capacity for panel technologies such as OLED, which are expected to be used in smartphones, tablets and TVs alike over the next decade. Government assistance is pushing these developments unlike places such as Taiwan, so the development is a guarantee, as it follows under China’s planned economy framework. The same also goes for China’s infrastructure for means of getting more reliable on green energy, producing more energy efficient means of transport, constructing greener cities and developing 3D printing technology. If you have the skills related to any of these fields you will be a high candidate for landing a job in China and will be given way more preferential treatment if you know the language too.
If you plan to invest or take part in government, let it be known that Chinese will be your next step. Major investments in places like the Washington DC area have fallen through due to lack of understanding between cultures in addition to language barriers, according to inside sources at various investment firms in the area. It may seem like a bit of a stretch, but if you know Chinese Mandarin then you are able to know the way Chinese people think, act and communicate, and because of this, when it comes time to doing business you know how to properly engage with them in addressing business actions as well as respecting and upholding the manners and etiquette expected from them. You would expect the same form others in a different culture looking to do business so the same concept should apply to your own thinking.
The Chinese people are complex individuals in terms of their culture, society, history and means of doing business. Knowing the insides of this can be learned minimally through books and much more effectively through real-life experience. However, to get that experience you need to know what the other person is saying, so make it a point to learn Chinese Mandarin, as it will be a secret weapon for you for decades to come.