The Business Secretary has called on businesses to support a British Council programme which aims to see 80,000 UK students take part in study or work experience programmes in China by 2020. Mr Cable's call came as he visited Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou.
"The global centre of gravity is shifting eastwards to major economic powerhouses like China," he said.
"But while China sends around 100,000 students each year to the UK, we send little more than 5,000 in the opposite direction. We must raise our game. New independent research shows that a lack of language skills in the UK is costing our economy about £48 billion. The shortage of Mandarin speakers is part of the problem. I don't want young British people to get left behind.
"So today I've written to a range of leading UK businesses urging them to get behind the British Council's Generation UK campaign, which aims to increase the number of UK people studying or undertaking internships in China."
Mr Cable also said Sun Yat Sen University had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the universities of Warwick and Glasgow to offer student exchanges.