The Need for Technical Communicators in China

Looking for a business opportunity in China? If education and training are your expertise, here’s an idea worth developing: training a generation of technical communication teachers in China, using a program modeled after U.S methods and techniques.

China is Hungry

The Chinese are trying to catch up to the world both technologically and pedagogically. They are hungry to make rapid progress and build bridges to the international community.

Technical communication disciplines support international mass standardization from business processes, to tools, to terminology to writing styles and so on.

Such a plan will do a service to the technical communication profession and to the students and people of China – to help feed the hunger.

As China increasingly integrates into the global economy – its November 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) was a major turning point that stimulated China’s phenomenal annual growth rate – Chinese enterprises face the challenge of the need for new skills, especially in the area of management, Information Technology (IT) and the English language. From 2000 through 2001 the IT industry was the biggest contributor to the Chinese national economy making up 4.2% of the national GDP. (07/02 US Commercial Service, Industry Sector Analysis (ISA). ISA reports dated 11/02 indicates continued expansion in the area of Information & Communication and Education/Train Services. Customized Flexible Market Research reports are available)

The international Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, (OCED) recognizes a clear trend towards a knowledge-based economy – where the activity of knowledge production, transfer and exchange are a major emphasis. In this environment the biggest challenge is human resource development, a huge undertaking for China with a population of 1.3 billion.

To meet the demands of a changing economic landscape, as the world relies more on information technology to run businesses and engage in exchanges, China must bring the IT skills of it workforce up to par with the standards of foreign companies, as it does business abroad.

Chinese enterprises business practices and technology need to be on par with those countries with which they do business, countries that are adopting global strategies of best practices and mass standardization.

Technical communication is a broad field that touches nearly every subject and profession because it connects ideas, people and practices. It defines, describes, and directs activities in business and industry, government and research institutions, hospitals and farms.

Currently in China, technical communication is a field in its earliest stages, unrecognized as a separate profession or academic discipline.

Managers, scientists and engineers practice technical communication widely among themselves.

Teaching and practice of these skills is ad hoc or extracurricular – the public is informed about science and technology issues through mass media chiefly by specialist with assistance from journalist, editors, photographers and film directors. None are trained as technical communicators or perceive themselves as technical communicators; in fact, technical communication is often interpreted as telecommunication and technical editing as television or film editing.

Producing a generation of technical communicators will be an enormous contribution towards development of an education and training infrastructure, built to provide a skilled workforce for the future.
Propose to Chinese Education and Training Institutions

To develop a program curriculum that will teach technical communication discipline and practices. Gear the program for those who are looking for an academic experience that prepares them to enter the field.

To teach fundamentals and advanced courses in technical communication including but not limited to:

�· Foundation Skills of Technical Writing
�· Introduction to Policies and Procedures Communication
�· Report Writing
�· Manual Writing
�· Creating Readable Documents
�· Technical Editing
�· Information Design
�· Technical Writing for the Web
�· International Technical Communication
�· Cross-Cultural Communication
�· Project Management Communications
�· Writing Effective Proposals
�· Introduction to Project Management
�· Making Sense of Knowledge Management

Strategic Objectives

Gain understanding of how culture affects international technical communication and professional interactions.

Incorporate English language proficiency into curriculum as a prerequisite and provide textual, multimedia or audio-visual materials related to ESL/EFL/ESP [English as Second Language/English as a Foreign Language/English for Special Purposes] in general, technical writing in particular.

Develop relationships with, Ministry of Education, (MOE) Information Technology (IT) and education professionals.

Target US IT firms doing business in China, for example GE, IBM, Motorola and Microsoft have built R&D Centers – and Hewlett Packard. China has a software solution center in Shanghai.

Analyze demographic market research to target specific populations to be educated as teachers of technical communication.

Make use of content and methodology already existing in US market.

As of 06/01, it was technically not legal to enter the Chinese education service industry as a wholly foreign-owned enterprise (WFOE)., according to the US Commercial Service ISA.
This restriction may have been relaxed with China’s entry into the WTO later that year, in any case, forming a joint venture with a local educational institution or training firm will assist in gaining access to markets.

Key Challenges

Cultural Differences

Must be identified and addressed as they present themselves in the technical communication context.

Institutionalization of “Guanxi” – Guanxi can be described as the importance of connections in establishing and succeeding with a foreign enterprise in China.

To overcome “Guanxi” and other cultural factors, commit time and sincere effort to develop knowledge of and sensitivity to Chinese culture.

Navigating the requirements of the MOE, the regulatory agency that monitors education and training services.

Develop relationships with Chinese educators who are persuaded to champion the cause. The ideal advocate will understand Chinese ways but be expert in the ways of Western business practices.

Domestic Competition -Chinese are also offering services in education/ training and are better equipped to understand culture. Internal vendor capitalization of economies of scale, i.e. offering increase output at lower better cost per unit. The right relationship and advantage of offering US program model will offset the impact of domestic competition.

Assessment of Risk and Benefits

Fortunately the existence of maturing global communication technology, a growing body of best practices about the collaborative process and an increasing appreciation for the complexities of cultural difference help to minimize the impact of the fore mentioned challenges.

The development of information products for a global audience forces us to confront difference of language, culture and experience that make collaboration more likely.

“Guanxi” has a profound effect on the way business is conducted. Careful attention must be given to establishing a network of relationships sensitive to Chinese way of business.

Rapid changes in governmental policy, attitude about foreign investments and notions about the relationship between individual prosperity and socialist change will require watchful diligence and ready action over time.

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