The China Opportunity

December 31, 2011

The slogan for the UK's London 2012 Olympics is 'Be Part of It!' The same slogan could well apply to the UK's trade with China.

Now, more than ever, the UK and China have an opportunity to benefit from exchange. By Neil Selby

The slogan for the UK’s London 2012 Olympics is ‘Be Part of It!’ The same slogan could well apply to the UK’s trade with China.

At a time when China is looking actively to encourage new models of growth through domestic consumption and investment in strategic industries, a huge business opportunity is being created in China’s health, education, luxury goods, consumer and financial products, IT, creative industries, high tech engineering, environment and energy efficiency sectors, to name but a few.

Several UK firms, of course, are already ‘part of it.’ Jardine Matheson, Standard Chartered, Rolls-Royce and Diageo have recently been in the news after winning sizeable contracts. China is Jaguar Land Rover’s third-largest market in the world and its revenues are growing consistently with latest quarterly year-on-year figures up 87 percent. Companies such as BT with its Customer Innovation Centre in Beijing, HSBC with its growing penetration of the rural Chinese market, and Tesco with its green logistics center in China in Zhejiang Province, are all helping to showcase UK expertise. Penguin, the British publisher, won the 2010 ‘Continued Commitment Award’ in recognition of its ‘sustainable and ethical investment’ in the region. Penguin is training a new generation of literary translators through its Chinese- English Literary Translation programme, launched in partnership with the Chinese government in 2008.

The 2012 Olympic slogan is not about current athletes and medal winners. It’s about persuading the next generation of participants to come forward. And the same is true of trade with China.

For many companies, cautionary tales of corruption, opaque business-government relationships, and lack of intellectual property protection mean doing business with China gets dismissed as too difficult.

But as the outlook in America, Britain’s single biggest export market, looks increasingly bleak—and as the euro zone, where half of Britain’s exports go, starts imploding—China’s economic resilience and vitality become ever more appealing. The hard economic reality is that the UK needs more companies to understand how to do business in China, to be ‘part of it’ and contribute to the UK’s growth. As an opening to understanding one another better, we might reflect that we are not so dissimilar in our challenges and objectives. We both face aging populations, growing urban issues and income inequality. We are both looking to combat unemployment, improve levels of education, increase social welfare and use resources more efficiently. We are both looking to prioritise investment in innovation and the development of a dynamic service sector to create sustainable sources of growth.

And though our geographies, cultures, development paths, political systems, and societal values may be undeniably different, our interdependence are well-established through existing trade relationships. Further opportunities for exchange and complementary relations appear in the ambitious goals of the most recent Five- Year Plan.

Recognizing the opportunity to bridge Eastern and Western business cultures, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB) became the first Chinese business school to ‘Go West’ by opening a branch office in St. James’s Square, London.

According to CKGSB Dean Xiang Bing, ‘the role in London for CKGSB will be to offer sustainable knowledge platforms and executive education programmes to link Western executives wishing to go East with business leaders who are shaping China’s economy, as well as linking Chinese executives who wish to go West with top European business leaders’.

London originally won the 2012 Olympics on a platform of sustainability. Now, more than ever, the UK has the opportunity to be an even greater part of China’s dynamic and sustainable future.

And China has the opportunity to be even more part of ours.

Neil Selby is the Director of Executive Education for CKGSB Europe.


CKGSB Europe is delighted to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Lord Nat Wei of Shoreditch, on 27th October 2011, confirming its role as Secretariat to a newly established All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on East Asian Business.

The All Party Parliamentary Group will create a knowledge platform for parliamentarians and leading business people to inform and support the continued development of good trade and investment relations between countries of East Asia and the United Kingdom. The group will present a series of seminars and events, with its inaugural event on the 29th February 2012 at the House of Commons, Westminster.

Its two honorary presidents are Lord Mandelson of Foy and Lord Powell of Bayswater, its Chair is Lord Wei of Shoreditch with two Vice-Chairs Lord Risby of Haverhill and Kevan Jones MP, Treasurer Roger Godsiff MP and Secretary Mark Lancaster MP.

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