UK companies seek new opportunities in China

Updated: 2015-03-12 06:38

By Cecily Liu and Zhang Chunyan in London(

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UK companies seek new opportunities in China

The China Business Conference which is organized by the China-Britain Business Council draws about 500 delegates from Britain and China to attend it in London on Wednesday.(By Zhang Chunyan)

China's economic "new normal" can bring more opportunities for UK companies, British business leaders said on Wednesday.

James Sassoon, chairman of the China-Britain Business Council, said China is undergoing a period of further transformation.

"It is stepping away from labor-intensive exports toward a more highly mechanized and service-originated economy, with heightened resilience on domestic demand and added emphasis on environmental sustainability," he said at the China Business Conference in London.

Premier Li Keqiang announced a growth target of about 7 percent for this year at the ongoing National People's Congress annual session as China moves toward a "new normal" of lower, more sustainable growth.

Sassoon added, "We should welcome and embrace these changes, and make sure we are well positioned to seize the opportunities they present."

Attended by about 500 delegates from Britain and China, the conference is organized by the council, a leading organization helping British companies to increase and develop their business with China. The aim is to create a forum for discussion and cooperation to position business between the two countries.

David Robinson, president of Speedo International, which is based in Britain and manufactures and distributes swimwear and accessories, said China's "new normal" will place great emphasis on fitness and healthy lifestyles.

Speedo's products are available in most first- and second-tier cities in China, and the company is now working on increasing its e-commerce presence.

Chris Hill, development manager of Lifecycle Marketing, which provides education programs for pregnant women, said China's "new normal" will boost the market for his business, with great emphasis being placed on healthy lifestyles and quality of living.

Hill said although China's economic growth is slowing, the country still represents a huge market for Lifecycle, with the annual pregnancy rate in China standing at 16 million, compared with 800,000 in Britain.

The company is looking to expand into China through joint ventures and marketing strategies to attract China's emerging middle class, Hill added.

Ni Jian, charge d'affaires at the Chinese embassy in London, explained, "China's growing demand for brands provides great opportunities for reputable British brands with high-recognition and reputation in the Chinese market.

"The fast growth of e-commerce in China will also provide increasing opportunities for British products to enter the Chinese market."

Exports of British cars to China have increased sevenfold since 2009, according to the British Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Last year, 137,410 UK-built cars were exported to China, a year-on-year increase of 14.5 percent.

Last year saw enhanced Sino-UK economic cooperation, with bilateral trade reaching a new high of $80.9 billion, a year-on-year increase of 15.3 percent, according to the Chinese embassy in Britain.

Ni said China's growing need for innovation is leading to a big demand for new technology, techniques and products.

Britain, with its advanced manufacturing, high-technology and clean-technology sectors is well positioned to supply this market, Ni added.

The past year also key mergers and acquisitions and China's investment in the UK exceeded $7 billion.

"As China opens up its service industry further to foreign investment to satisfy its big domestic demand, foreign capital in finance, healthcare, education and pension sectors will have great opportunities to expand in China," said Ni.

What's more, the internationalization of the renminbi is providing great opportunities to the UK, as a competitive offshore renminbi center, Ni said.

Paul Rogers, author of Little Bridge World Ltd, an English language education provider, said that China's new normal will boost the demand for English language learning because highly educated and internationally minded talents will be valued more in the market.

"As China focuses more on innovative growth and internationalization of its companies and industries, there will be a bigger market for English learning," Rogers said.

The internationalization of Chinese firms have also provided great opportunities for Central Hall Westminster, an iconic London venue which is increasingly hosting outbound Chinese events and firms in recent years.

Examples include a conference by the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, and also Chinese film festivals in London, said Kevin Blackman, senior sales manager at Central Hall Westminster.

"As Chinese businesses become more international minded as a result of China focusing on international growth and innovative growth, we will have more clients from China, and we are going through a process to adjust our services to their needs," Blackman said.