【South China Morning Post】China lacks diplomatic talent at global agencies

Date:2016-3-23 From:South China Morning Post

China needs to expand its pool of diplomatic talent if its growing global clout is to be matched by its presence in international organisations, observers say.

China’s influence is rising around the world but it still accounts for only a small percentage of staff at international bodies such as the United Nations.

Observers say this is partly due to a shortage of Chinese candidates with extensive diplomatic knowledge and experience, despite hundreds of thousands of Chinese studying overseas each year.

The central government should take steps to identify and develop a pool of talent, they say.

Officials said less than 3 per cent of employees at major international institutions were Chinese. For example, only about 200 of the roughly 10,000 people employed at the World Bank’s headquarters and country offices are Chinese, according to a finance ministry source who worked for two years at the lender’s Office of the Executive Director for China.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation says it employs about 3,200 people worldwide, but only about 50 are Chinese, ?according to Niu Dun, China’s permanent representative at the agency.

“Over the past three decades, we’ve never been so deeply engaged in so many global issues as we are now, neither have we been so close to the centre of the world stage,” Niu, a former deputy agriculture minister, said on the sidelines of the annual legislative and political advisory body sessions in Beijing. “But no matter how good a policy we have, above all, we need a team to realise our goal ... It’s an urgent issue and also a long-term task.”

He said the main problem among Chinese candidates was the lack of professional knowledge. “Even though someone has some diplomatic experience and speaks a foreign language well, it’s very difficult if he is incapable of discussing professional problems,” Niu said.

Observers said this was part of the reason why Chinese staff were in entry-level positions at international organisations.

The finance ministry source said most of the employees from China at the World Bank were consultants and few assumed positions at or above the level of director. “For senior positions in intergovernmental institutions we have seen more Chinese faces in recent years, but that was more a result of government intervention,” he said.

There has been a fourfold increase in the number of Chinese students studying overseas in recent years, dramatically expanding the potential pool of future diplomats and experts to work at international organisations.

About 460,000 Chinese students studied abroad in 2014, compared with 114,700 a decade earlier, according to data released by the Ministry of Education.

Wang Huiyao, director of the Beijing-based think tank the Centre for China and Globalization(CCG), said the lack of qualified Chinese candidates available to work at international agencies was a serious problem.

Wang said one of the big barriers for overseas-trained applicants was passing China’s civil service exam.

Most Chinese employed at major international bodies are mainland civil servants and the central government hires most of its employees through an annual civil service test and interview.

“For overseas returnees, a different knowledge structure makes it hard to pass the test. This should be changed,” Wang said.

Wang said the most common way for Chinese people returning to the country to go into government was by first teaching at a university and then impressing the authorities with their academic achievements.

“We could have a special test for such people and we should rely more on interviews and other ways in selection,” Wang said.

Niu said he was now hiring Chinese students studying in Italy as part-time workers at the UN to cultivate future staff for his office in Rome. “This way these people can deal with agricultural diplomacy while studying at college and when they graduate, if qualified and willing, they can stay for a job here,” he said.

From South China Morning Post , 2016-3-18