Want a promotion? First get China on your resume

Update:12 May 2007
HONG KONG - How many times have you been to China? The question now pops up in boardrooms, lounges and lecture halls around the globe and is increasingly being raised by businessmen, investors and Nobel laureate economists.

Chinese ground-level access and expertise have always been indispensable credentials in China. But as interest in tapping the country's rapid rise swells, jet-setting businessmen and political luminaries have learnt to brag about their trips to and knowledge of the world's fourth-largest economy.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson visited China more than 70 times while heading Goldman Sachs before assuming his current job, a detail cited in almost every Paulson news story that relates to China.

Morgan Stanley Chief Executive John Mack has been to China almost as many times as Paulson -- making about 60 trips -- since first setting foot there in the early 1990s.

"Business success in China really depends on long-term commitment and long-term relationships in the region," Mack told a recent China conference in New York.

"Guanxi", or connections, have always been important to doing business in China. But with the flood of investment into the country, China can be selective and foreign investors feel increasingly compelled to demonstrate their commitment to the country and to differentiate themselves from newcomers.

CONNECTIONS, CONNECTIONS

China ties recently helped Morgan Stanley's powerful Chief Economist, Stephen Roach, win the role of Asia chairman at the Wall Street bank. Roach, known for his early bullishness on China, is one of the few western economists with access to top officials and regulators in Beijing.

Roach, who predicts that China will unseat the United States to become the world's largest economy in 2025, visited the country four times last year.

To position themselves for China's rise, multinationals are busy hiring and promoting people with China experience.

Seasoned China hands have already risen to the top of global media companies. Dow Jones & Co in April named Marcus Brauchli, who once headed its China bureau, as the Wall Street Journal's managing editor.

Earlier this year, David Schlesinger, a fluent Chinese speaker, became Reuters editor-in-chief. Schlesinger joined Reuters as a correspondent in Hong Kong in 1987 and subsequently led its Beijing and Taipei bureaus.

To get first-hand experience in China, some executives are willing to take jobs seen as too small for their big resumes.

Last year, Stephen Newhouse, former global president of Morgan Stanley, joined the board of little-known AJ Corp., which controls an ailing Shanghai brokerage.

In 2003, Former Goldman Sachs President John Thornton surprised Wall Street by leaving for a teaching post at China's elite Tsinghua University.

China credentials are now an asset in politics, too. Profiles of Kevin Rudd, who in December became leader of Australia's opposition Labor Party, often mention that he speaks Mandarin.

Even portfolio managers are shedding their usual detachment when it comes to China.

High-profile investor Jim Rogers, who predicted the boom of Chinese equities and wields big influence among Chinese investors, likes to note that his three-year-old daughter is fluent in the language and they might move to China.

"We want to to make sure that she continues to be fluent in Chinese," Rogers said recently. "That is how much I am excited about China."

SOURCE: Reuters

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