Xin Nian Kuaj Le! Happy New Year!
It seemed appropriate this week to talk about China and its potential for business in the South West, not least as the Bristol branch of The Institute of Directors (IoD) is seeing momentum build for its multi-partite Trade Mission later this year to Bristol’s sister city of Guangzhou.
Organised in conjunction with the UKTI, it is designed to highlight strong existing trade links between Bristol and China, while demonstrating how local businesses can develop their products and services in order to succeed in the world’s fastest growing economy.
Why are we suggesting people actually get on the ground as part of their business plan? As anyone who has already been to China, they will know it is a complex market in which to do business; as the world’s most populous nation, there is not an easily defined customer profile; business and language etiquette can still be a barrier and culturally it is so very different from the western world, as well as from north to south.
I visited Beijing and Shanghai five years ago and was quite overwhelmed by the contrast between classes, the incredibly basic and careful existence of a nation that mainly still keeps its savings under the blanket and has relied on the young to look after them in old age, news censorship, the number of people begging in the top tourist areas and the constant ‘business’ of a nation trying to find gainful employment for everyone.
I have never seen so many people sweeping the grounds of the hotel. I could have eaten my dinner off the lawn. Apparently migrant workers will still pretty much go anywhere for a day’s pay.
Undoubtedly, things are moving quickly in the country and I may well have a significantly different experience now. Nevertheless, it’s still a market in which you need to build relationships face to face, accept that displays of wealth are still good, (as Jeremy Paxman says, you wouldn’t catch the mayor riding around on a bicycle), acknowledge the importance of hierarchy and customs and show a long-term commitment.
Impatience is seen as a serious character flaw and weakness: China is interested in stayers. But if you have the commitment it represents compelling investment opportunities. Even at at its slowest pace in more than two years, China’s economic growth is still impressive at 8.9%.
While the rise of China is easy to acknowledge, businesses constantly need to catch up with the speed and depth of change and development in China’s large and complex market space. Whether selling, trading, investing or franchising, these are opportunities best explored with the backing of businesses already trading in China. If you’re interested in what could be an amazing Year of the Dragon, contact Richard Lowe on 0845 119 1383 or visit our website.