Future and Possibilities of Interdisciplinary Asia-Oriented Programmes' Graduates: Interview with Prof. Natalia Ribberink.
Natalia Ribberink, professor of Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, tells about geopolitical processes in Modern Asia, future of Russian-Chinese relations and potential of intersidciplinary Asia-oriented master's programmes' graduates
Natalia Ribberink, professor of Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, held a course of seminars within the discipline "Methodology for Sociopolitical Research in East Asia" for students of the master's programme "Business and Politics in Modern Asia". Prof. Ribberink is an expert in business and investments in South-Eastern Asia and global trade. 1st year student Julia Kutepova interviewed prof. Ribberink about her opinion on interdisciplinary education, work possibilities for graduates of interdisciplinary Asia-oriented programmes and the future of Russian-Chenes economic relations.
– Nowadays, there is a lot of information in media and other sources about Asia and its rapid development. Why do you think, students should receive professional knowledge of rapidly-growing and challenging Asia?
– Surely, we need education programs focusing on Asia and its development, especially from different perspectives and from a multidisciplinary point of view. It is important to take such a look in order to see, how we can interpret the dynamics and understand, what it actually means, and what can be forecasted based on indicators we get, to understand and to analyze it. We definitely need this combination of theory, facts, statistical ability. Therefore, we need educational programs focused specifically on Asia and combining different perspectives.
My second degree was focusing on European business studies, and we studied it from different perspectives as well. Even if the program was titled Business Studies, it also included political perspective, historical development background, social-cultural trends, institutional development and other disciplines in their connection to business.
– Which skills are required to understand the processes that are taking place in contemporary Asia?
– Asia is still a pretty exotic region. We cannot say, it applies all global standards and norms to understand all phenomena we see there. So, obviously, it is an advantage, that you have linguistic skills to understand some of their languages, that you have basic understanding what kind of linguistic setting you have in Asia, because it definitely has an influence on the way people think, interpret information, etc. Learning a language depends on your perspective of your future plans. If you have a strong focus on South Korea, it would be beneficial to you to focus on Korean language. From my personal experience, the more languages you are able to talk, the deeper is your understanding of the conducts overall.
Moreover, it is important to understand Asian unique history, development of society and people in that region. It all has an implication on how people react on policymaking and doing business processes. Therefore, you need to have this Asian focus and be able to act there efficiently and successfully.
– There is a high level of competition within Asia in order to be the leading region country. How do you think, which country will be the leading one in Asia in about 10-20 years?
– It is a challenging question. It is very hard to forecast. We saw the situation that have been already forecasted, which was based on statistical observations, models, etc., and then – due to an unforeseen recession, or dot-com crisis, or coronavirus – the forecasts were destroyed, with consequences leading to restructuring of economies and societies in general.
If we take an initial situation with an assumption that there would be a rather stable situation for a couple of decades, than definitely China and India have great potential to succeed due to population size and number of graduates. If we take a look at the current number of graduates in different disciplines that get a diploma in China and India and compare the same numbers with Europe or USA in terms of globalization, we can see that a lot of people from Asia have an ability to join the global labor market, which creates certain challenges for European and American graduates to stay competitive in a long run perspective. China definitely has a potential to become a superpower. You cannot ignore China. It is a fact!
– How do you feel about the initiative Belt and Road Initiative? Is it an expansion of China for gaining more control over the resources, markets and countries or is it a peaceful and selfless desire to establish the community of shared future for mankind?
– There is a combination of both. Every large geopolitical campaign has a certain conflict of interests. Obviously, China is interested in increasing its strategic positions in the global economy by re-routing some of the trade flows, but they will also try to regain power through integration, for sure, of those countries who are involved in BRI.
We should not forget considerations about national interests of those countries, independency or dependency they might get by being involved in this initiative. But from positive perspective we cannot ignore development of infrastructure, socio-cultural positive impact – transfer of cultural values, ethical understanding of different aspects, institutional development and harmonization of standards. It will reunite countries sharing the same region. It will turn into a new distribution of power in the global geopolitics.
– Could you please tell us more about relationship between Russia and China? What are the main fields for cooperation?
– When it comes to Russia and China, I definitely see a lot of potential for them to develop their cooperation in many different areas, starting with economic cooperation, educational cooperation, for sure, and many other perspectives.
I have some insights in China especially from BRI initiative. Chinese are still not really sure about Russian attitude towards China: whether Russia is a reliable partner in long-term prospective or not. As from more objective perspective, both countries have a potential to integrate and to position themselves as nations that have certain power, as well as decision-making power. But both countries have to develop mutual trust and base their cooperation on the sense of trust, and this one should take some time.
– What are the perspectives of Russian-German relations in today’s strained circumstances?
– I hope that objective understanding of what is going on will overweight, because Germans are still polarized by fake news as well as geopolitical influence of their major trading partners, USA, for instance, and some EU countries, especially when it comes to their commitment to Russia.
However, what makes me happy is, that we have this awareness at least within the German business community, that Russia is important to have ties with as a business partner. Therefore, I do believe that we will have revival or achieve revivification of relations between Germany and Russia in the upcoming years.
– Could you please provide some advices or examples of successive tactic to gain more knowledge?
– First, it is important to raise a question - “What for and how can I apply different subjects that I get or information that I get?”. I am a supporter of applied education or applied knowledge. Second important point is to gain a generalist skill set, to be able to screen and to understand, what the global trends and developments are, what are respectively the most important implications, and what kind of advanced skills your need to be able to act efficiently.
– How do you think, what chances do students of Asia-aimed Master programs have in order to find a well-paid job in Asia?
– What I see is that qualified skilled young graduates in many different fields have nowadays all chances to find a well-paid job in the Chinese labor market. Especially, if they are fluent in Chinese or any other Asian language. You have a choice out of a wide range of positions provided for young specialists. And your program has this important interdisciplinary approach (business and politics) that is very demanded nowadays in Asia, as well as worldwide.
– How do you think, do Russian students differ from German ones? What is the difference?
– It is my first teaching experience in a study program combining business and politics in Russia. Students in Germany in such courses usually have some homogeneous basic understanding and particular background, but your group was very diverse in background of bachelor degree. That was a great benefit, as you were able to contribute to discussion from different perspectives, for example, historical, philosophical and philological. It was very fruitful to teach your group.
– Which books or articles could you recommend to get better understanding of processes in Asia?
– Quite challenging, but I advise to look through publications on annual basis, for example, regional reports, trustworthy online resources of international institutions, which have expertise to analyze the region you study. So, take a closer look at The UN Conference on Trade and Development, in order to understand major trends in trade and FDI; you can furthermore screen OECD and WTO publications and articles, as well as World Economic Forum reports for some general analysis of global trends and selected country performance.
We thank Julia Kutepova for this interview!