Meet the new breed of migrant workers

Updated: 2014-07-07 07:09

By Xu Jingxi (China Daily)

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Meet the new breed of migrant workers 

Nicolas Santo from Uruguay and his colleague Abbey Heffer from England, are two of the five foreign members of staff working for the government of Foshan in Guangdong province. Zou Zhongpin / China Daily 

Practical help

"We didn't hire the foreign staff as a publicity stunt. Foshan is building an international business environment, and the foreign staff have brought much-needed help to our investment promotion," Zhou said.

An experienced website designer from the UK has redesigned the bureau's official website to "look like those of the BBC and CNN - professional and fashionable", Zhou said, adding that the employees, who all speak fluent English, are able to dig out potential investors from "the sea of English information online about foreign enterprises" more quickly than their Chinese colleagues.

With their language skills and a similar mindset to clients from overseas, the foreign members can help the team to avoid "Chinglish" in its promotions, a common failing of Chinese investment-promotion agencies.

However, that's just the tip of the iceberg regarding the advantages of having foreign players in an investment promotion team.

"We are heavily involved with the foreign business community in Guangdong, and have better contacts," Santo said. "So it can be a great advantage to have foreign players in the team during negotiations with a company at the site-selection stage of investment."

Yu Hongping, deputy head of the investment promotion agency under Foshan Bureau of Commerce, said he's impressed by the newcomers' social networking skills.

He said the foreign staff actively approach members of foreign chambers of commerce at networking events, and mingle effectively to exchange contact information. By contrast, Chinese employees are usually shyer and have difficulty coming up with small talk.

"When an interpreter is present, Chinese employees and foreign guests only engage in formal business talk. But the foreign employees chat with the guests in a relaxed way about a variety of topics such as sports and lifestyles, and thus become acquainted more quickly," Yu said.

Santo displayed a photo on his cell phone. The subject was Francisco Sanchez, a former undersecretary for International Trade at the US Commerce Department, whom Yu met at an investment promotion event in Foshan's Shunde district.

"Mr Sanchez has Latin roots and speaks Spanish. And coincidentally, he also visited Uruguay six months before visiting Shunde, while he was still in the US government," Santo said.

Yu believes that the lack of language barriers is one of the reasons the foreign employees can expand the bureau's expat network. "More importantly, they share similar cultures," he said.

 Meet the new breed of migrant workers  Meet the new breed of migrant workers

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