The event was organised by the China-Britain Business Council, a leading organisation which has been helping UK companies grow and develop their business with China for sixty years.
“China’s transformation and modernisation is happening at tremendous speed and although China faces many challenges, these become opportunities for foreign firms that can help deliver solutions to these challenges in healthcare, transport, education and so on,” said Nicolas De Santis President and Secretary General of Gold Mercury.
The conference focused on the nature of UK-China business cooperation and the opportunities there are for the future. During the conference, leading industry and government speakers discussed key topics regarding China, including trade and investment, economic growth and business cooperation.
The need for greater business cooperation is a particularly pertinent issue for UK development as China continues to experience rapid economic growth, urbanisation and increasing personal wealth. The influence of Chinese companies continues to grow across the world, therefore it is important for the United Kingdom to utilise opportunities which can provide mutual economic benefits.
Following a message from British Prime Minister David Cameron, the conference began with an overview of the new opportunities presented by China’s changing landscape, opportunities which the UK needs to seize. H.E. Liu Xiaoming, Chinese Ambassador to the UK addressed the reasons for China’s economic growth and the ways in which the UK can emulate this. He attributed the high level of growth to raised incomes, increased urbanisation, education and training reforms and a policy of openness. Bob Grace, President of Jaguar Land Rover China spoke of the lucrative nature of the Chinese Market, with 2012 revenues totalling £5.08 billion. He also spoke of a sense of Britishness serving as the main brand driver, a sentiment many other British companies can use to their advantage. Victor Zhang, CEO UK of Huawei, the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world also highlighted the importance of the forward thinking nature of Chinese businesses stating, “We are a key player to enable next generation broadband.”
The urbanisation of China, including the issues of demographics, healthcare, employment and education was also analysed. Those attending the conference were reminded of China’s five year plan that includes investing in urbanisation, which involves creating forty five million jobs in urban areas and reducing unemployment to less than 5%. A universal healthcare reform also forms part of the plan, and with the issue of an ageing population in China, it is imperative for healthcare to advance. China has also cemented its position as one of the world leaders in liveable cities and planning, and the speakers on this topic gave valuable insights as to how the UK can benefit from China’s expertise in the area as they collaborate on best practise standards.
The subject of the Chinese consumer also featured during the conference. The importance of the Chinese consumer cannot be overlooked, and from the British perspective the economic incentives of attracting Chinese consumers is unparalleled, with their spending habits continuing to increase. Whilst it is important to grow Chinese outbound spending, it is also vital for businesses to expand their operations into China to reap the rewards. Professor Sun Baohong, Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean of Global Programs at CKGSB discussed the purchasing behaviour of consumers and the response of foreign brands. It was noted that because the UK is out of the Schengen visa, this prevents Chinese luxury brand tourists visiting the EU from spending money in the UK. The influence of social media on Chinese consumers was also discussed, with 80% of Chinese luxury purchases having been researched using social media. Clemence Cheung, Group Managing Director of Port Holdings also spoke to the conference about ways to help British SME’s to access the Chinese market.
Whilst discussions about attracting investment to the UK featured heavily throughout the conference, the topic of ‘China Outbound’ was also discussed. Whilst it is integral for UK companies to attract investment to the UK, Chinese businesses are also searching globally for new opportunities and the British service industry is positioned to assist and support Chinese companies in this quest. The notion of international cooperation within globalisation, a key pillar of Gold Mercury’s foundation, has led to Chinese businesses expanding their influence across the globe. Sir Anthony Galsworthy KCMG, former UK Ambassador to China supported their desire for international expansion stating, “China invests abroad to gain a stake in the world economy and we should welcome it and not think of it as a threat.” It is this international expansion which the UK must build upon, engaging Chinese consumers and investment and learning valuable lessons from the expertise China has already demonstrated.