'Benefiting both sides'

Business cooperation boosts foreign trade

In most cases, anyone offered a place on the Leadership Programme for Chinese Executives of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) really has made it. Many ‘alumni’ have the programme to thank for their rise to positions of managerial responsibility in business or administration. The state government of NRW in Düsseldorf launched this programme for executives from the People’s Republic of China in the early 1980s, just as China’s economic open-door policy was getting under way. Those responsible were quick to recognise the enormous potential for economic development emerging from the new policy of the Chinese government.

Since then GIZ has been implementing the training activities, which are funded by the NRW state government and China in partnership – with a focus on the partner provinces of Jiangsu, Sichuan and Shanxi. The two sides continuously update the training content in line with current trends. What began as a German contribution to development cooperation has evolved over the decades into a successful instrument of foreign trade promotion that benefits both countries. Almost 1,000 individuals have since completed the NRW Leadership Programme, which takes up to twelve months. The programme is designed for Chinese executives in enterprises and institutions, who learn German in China before undergoing the management training scheme in NRW. After that they embark on individual working assignments in companies in NRW, where they learn the specifics relevant to their tasks back home. The programme also invites high-ranking delegates from the provinces to participate in special fact-finding missions to NRW. This strengthens the exchange of experience and transfer of expertise between NRW and the partner provinces, and promotes joint projects and business cooperation.

The programme’s alumni are particularly important for expanding economic relations between NRW and its partner provinces in China. During their training assignments they develop close ties with Germany, and NRW in particular, and today make an active contribution toward developing contacts and cooperation between companies and institutions in NRW and China. To maintain these contacts, GIZ invites selected alumni to return to Germany. Relations are further deepened through reciprocal visits made by political and economic delegations.

The NRW Leadership Programme benefits hugely from the close collaboration between the two GIZ offices in NRW and China. They help select suitable trainees and subsequently involve them in project activities in China, and support the joint organisation of specialised studytrips. Through its manifold working contacts among political institutions, companies and centres of expertise, GIZ brings together key actors from NRW and China. In so doing it links up the interests of Germany, NRW, the business sector and partners in China, and fosters new cooperation arrangements.

From now until 2014, GIZ will be developing and organising training activities and specialised study trips, e.g. for Shanxi province, covering numerous aspects of ‘ecological structural change’ such as environmental protection, climate change mitigation, industrial modernisation and ecological urban development. Shanxi, a centre of heavy industry that is rich in ore and coal, needs to restructure its economy, and has been selected by the central government as a pilot region for ecological structural change. In this respect the province faces challenges similar to those tackled by the Ruhr region since the 1960s. Cooperating with North Rhine-Westphalia is therefore a particularly attractive option for Chinese partners.

This article was first published in the GIZ company report 2012.