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Chinese recruiters are scouring Western firms

By CECILY LIU | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-04-13 17:25

Seven years ago, Weichai Group, a leading Chinese manufacturer of engines for heavy-duty trucks and construction machinery, recruited a promising young engineer from Caterpillar, a United States rival. Weichai made him the head of its electric control unit leading a research and development team of more than 130 people.

Within a few years, 48-year-old Li Daming had helped Weichai develop its own ECU technology, the engine's brain, and put an end to the company's reliance on overseas ECU technology. The change has significantly helped the company reduce its production costs.

Li's career path highlights a growing trend among Chinese companies to grab talented people from international rivals and use them as they globalize.

Wechai, Hainan Airlines, Eastern Airlines and many other Chinese companies have sent human resources teams overseas to hunt for talent in recent years. Their targets range from fresh graduates to experienced managers.

"We are hunting for Chinese talents with overseas experience who can contribute toward our team their valuable skills, international mindsets and understanding of overseas markets as we expand abroad," said Lyu Shousheng, vice-general manager of Weichai, who led a team of recruiters to a job fair at Queen Mary University in London on Sunday.

In recent years, Weichai has made equity investments in Western companies, including Germany's Kion, Linde Hydraulics, and Dematic, Italy's Ferretti, and France's Moteurs Baudouin.

Recruiting people whose technical skills and cultural understanding can bridge between Weichai and its overseas subsidiaries is crucial, Lyu said.

Both Hainan Airlines and China Eastern Airlines have also participated in job fairs at institutions including University College London, Imperial College, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Manchester. Meanwhile Tianjin Airlines held its own recruitment event last month at London's Gatwick Airport with the intention of attracting talent from rival Western airlines.

Gao Leqi, general manager of the Manchester branch of Hainan Airlines, was surprised by the level of interest he encountered when his team staged a recruitment day at the University of Manchester last year.

"From morning to late afternoon, our team met over a thousand Chinese students coming from universities in the English Midlands and Northern England. I was so impressed by their eagerness and enthusiasm," said Gao.

The companies' overseas recruitment drives are supported by Chinese government policies, such as the Thousand Talents Plan that started in 2008. So far, it has attracted more than 40,000 talented individuals back to China, through financial rewards and visa privileges. Such initiatives reduce the cost to companies of recruiting people from overseas.

Fast career progression thanks to China's tremendous economic growth is attractive to many talented Chinese people working overseas, but some still hesitate.

"Some graduates initially hoped that we were recruiting for our UK team, and felt disappointed when they realized the jobs were in China," Gao said. He said some graduates were worried about lower salaries in China and about not being able to pick the Chinese city of their choice after their return.

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