Competitive Intelligence

Tactical, Operational & Strategic Analysis of Markets, Competitors & Industries

Isn't chinese mandarin language an indispensable skill for today CI professionals?

With a population of 1.4 billion people, and the fastest growing economy in the world, isn't theier language one of the most important skills to CI practioners nowadays, in order to get direct acess to primary sources in this country and be ahead of the competitors?


In order to have an idea about the influence of this country, take a look at: China Global Investment Tracker Interactive Map - Also, see the two images in attached.



How could someone who does not know mandarin could efficiently search at Baido, for exemplo?! How about visiting a trade show in this country with "the eyes" of CI Professional?! Is it english language still enough to this kind of jobs!?



Views: 1514


Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Sandro: You raise an important observation and questions. My view is that being fluent in the Mandarin language is increasingly important for CI practitioners and the organizations they serve! Many published documents of importance to Chinese and other businesses are only accessible in Mandarin, and an inability to access and understand them could be a limiting factor for many (non Chinese) practitioners. Additionally, many Chinese business people speak English fluently, far more than the number of non-Chinese mandarin speakers.

I know from my many visits to China that I can converse with audiences in English and be well understood, but think about the reverse to this situation. When was the last time (outside of China or the very few places like the UN that provide simultaneous translation services) that a Mandarin speaker was well understood in his or her native language?

The Chinese, generally speaking, have been very wise to learn other languages like the English that most of their university goers must show competency in which better enables them to participate in the global economy. Indeed, it has been one of the factors underlying their growth and success. If I was training or teaching someone to be a CI practitioner and wanted them to be able to effectively address global developments, then I would strongly encourage them to gain fluency in Mandarin.

This is an absurd inquiry into an already settled question. Naturally, the English language remains the only important form of communication for business professionals the world over. All important facts are reported in English, and the vast majority of business transactions are conducted in the glorious dialect of the Angles and the Saxons. In fact, in countries where people are speaking their local patois, it is a well known phenomenon that they really speak English, they are hiding it from you.

As to the future, it is quite clear: Chinese people will gradually speak more and more English as they attempt to deepen their emulation of our fabulously successful economic model. I wouldn't be surprised if the Mandarin language disappears entirely by 2035, as I already predicted in my 1997 best-seller: Globalization Will Work Out Great For Everybody. In that commercial success, published simultaneously in 121 less-important languages, I observed, quite astutely, that the whole reason there IS globalization is so that countries may act increasingly like the Americans who won the Cold War and led us all to the Long Boom we are enjoying today. Their own multi-millennia history of literature, science, architecture, medicine, mathematics and art pales in comparison to the fact that America invented the Internetwebs - and thus, its language will retain primacy, forever.

The basics still apply: If you enjoy taking your spouse to see old buildings, by all means break out the Rosetta Stone and head for vacation. But if it's business you want to do, speak American English, and never mind those pictographic languages of the Orient. Nothing important is happening that might require direct communications with the people doing the lion's share of manufacturing, increasing amounts of science, and significant direct investment in developing economies around the world.

Dr. Egon, 


Just some points of the text of an issue of last october of Financial Times:


Mandarin has the edge in Europe’s classrooms


In 1997, about one in 300 US elementary schools taught Mandarin; by 2008 the figure was close to one in 30, according to the latest statistics compiled by the Center for Applied Linguistics.

More often than not, it is a perception that knowledge of Chinese will be a vital asset in tomorrow’s job market that is driving demand, he says.

“It’s a country you have to understand nowadays,” he argues.

I think we are just as likely to see the implosion of China, as we are to see it continue to grow into an economic powerhouse.   China is a huge bubble if you ask me.  

That said, learning another language is always a good thing.

There may be some serious challenges, even bubbles, ahead but you can't stop the sheer economic power that 1.7bn rapidly developing people have...even modest growth in consumption ensures China will be a superpower for a while.

You are making the assumption that they can navigate considerable domestic political and social issues – to say nothing of external factors.  

I'm with Trip all the way.

China is suffering from a ton of negative externalities,-pollution, power shortages, growing income inequality, their own massive property bubble, significant misallocations of capital and an inefficient banking system, high unemployment which is disguised by the CG as poorly run state owned enterprises shift to privatization and modernization, etc.

Further, China has for quite some time had more productive capacity than domestic demand and now with the crises in the developed economies I'd say its going to be very interesting to watch China.....because so much of their explosive growth was driven by what? Consumption fueled by debt in the advanced economies....even if they tried to fill the gap left by the demise of the American and European consumer with increased domestic consumption- suffice it to say there is no guarantee this will happen because they are seriously inclined to save.

Point is at the end of the day, in order to maintain anything like the levels of growth that China has seen in the last couple decades, China would have to carve out huge new markets every year that arent currently served by efficient producers....someone tell me where these new markets happen to be?



No, actually. I said "there may be challenges, even bubbles," but my point was that despite these challenges, China will continue to grow in importance.

Mr. Krant,


Take a look at the link of my reply in the answer to Mr. Egon, above.


Considering the political status of China, I've just read in a book called THE NEXT DECADE by George Friedman, that this country will split in two by 2020.

Even though, I don't believe that the importance of this language is gonna fall, because we will have circa 1.4 billion people there talking mandarin (and some cantonese)! They still have to much room to grow, what countries of the first world doesn't have anymore!


CI professionals should also be able to speak Russian, Hindi and Portuguese - so that they can keep up with the other BRIC countries. Or maybe they should just know how to obtain intelligence on what is happening in those markets that could impact their business. You don't need to be able to speak the language yourself - as long as you know somebody else who can. This may be Chinese - and it may not. It's also a fallacy to say that Mandarin Chinese is the primary language of everybody in China. Guangdonghua (Cantonese) is the language spoken in Hong Kong and Guangdong - except for national communication. Other Chinese dialects are spoken elsewhere - e.g. in Shanghai. (In contrast, the written language is the same - irrespective of dialect). 

Also, not all organisations trade cross-border and many service companies are primarily serving local markets and what happens internationally that is of importance is likely to be reported in their own language anyway.

In fact I think that it could be very dangerous to expect somebody who is NOT Chinese (but is a fluent Mandarin speaker) to do anything more than a preliminary primary research CI exercise in China. Translating documents and looking for published material is one thing (and there are translation agencies that will do that for you - so you can outsource this work). Actually speaking to people to gather CI is a different ball game as you need to be able to understand the cultural implications on what is said as well as the linguistic ones. There are a number of elicitation techniques used to gather intelligence. Different cultures will respond in different ways to these - and even though a non-Chinese Mandarin speaker may know about issues of face, chronicity, or any of the Hofstede / Trompenaars cultural dimensions they are unlikely to find it easy to take these into account in any interview. In contrast a native should be able to to - and then translate from Chinese to English the results. 

So in summary - I do not believe being fluent in Mandarin is important. (Or other languages). What IS important is knowing people to whom you can outsource such primary research. It is also important to understand national cultural dimensions in any analysis of results - and failing to do this can lead to a CI failure.

Who is gonna make the "bridge" between the language and the culture!? Someone has to this! If not the chinese guys translating its mandarim and its culture to be more suitable for the western people like us, we will have to include this language to our intellectual baggage! Other point to stress is that, when I say to learn a language, I also want to mean a culture, more local specifications on the geography, etc, as we are used to do in other language courses!


So, we have not only one dimension to learn as I pointed out above, the mandarim language, we have FOUR: Cultural, Local Administrative issues, Geographic, and Economic matters of this huge country!

Just to make a joke considering the first sentence of your text: Thanks good I've learned portuguese as a first language, because it is far more difficult of english to learn! By the way, take a look in this news at the Vancouver Sun: ;)

Should our kids be learning Brazilian Portuguese?


Sorry, I forgot to stress that being the "bridge" between china and the west for a CI practioner, could be a very strong differentiation point for this professional at his/her company, not only among CI PROs, but also among others. That's why my question if chinese mandarim (and the other implicit dimensions, Culture, Administrative, Geographic and Economic) is important/indispensable for todays CI Professionals!


Free Intel Collab Webinars

You might be interested in the next few IntelCollab webinars:

RECONVERGE Network Calendar of Events

© 2024   Created by Arik Johnson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service