The Chinese economy might be stuttering but airlift between the UK and cities across the country is nevertheless increasing, says Colin Ellson
Writing 1,500 years ago, the Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” It’s advice as pertinent today for UK companies seeking a foothold in China as it was for the merchants of the Middle Kingdom in the days of yore. The watchword then, as now, is patience, backed today by a longterm strategy for tackling the world’s largest economy. It has a population of 1.3 billion, 160 cities of more than one million inhabitants, and is a fastgrowing consumer market, forecast to become the biggest on earth for luxury goods by 2020. There is almost universal optimism about China’s prospects. The International Monetary Fund (IMF),
for example, has upgraded its growth forecast for the country in 2017 to 6.5%, 0.3 percentage points higher than last October. This is based on IMF findings that consumption is holding up, factories have pulled out of a four-year streak of deflation, and overall growth is expected to meet the Chinese government’s target. While it is equally optimistic about the opportunities for Sino-UK trade, the Department for International Trade (DIT) outlines the unique challenges facing British companies. These include the fact that large parts of the economy are still closed to full foreign participation; strong competition from well-resourced state-owned enterprises; finding and
retaining the right skills in the local workforce; language barriers; and a complex business culture. Nevertheless, based on current UK exports to China, ranging from electrical machinery and equipment and mineral fuels and oils, to vehicles, plastics and copper, the DIT says there is huge potential for expansion, especially in consumer goods and products. Li Ruogu, former chairman of the ExportImport Bank of China inevitably brings up the subject of Brexit, now preoccupying
Published on Jul 19, 2017
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