Scottish Chambers Trade Mission to China begins today and here’s how it’s shaping up

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Spring in Beijing, and the Scottish Chambers Trade Mission to China shows that the sap is rising for Scots business in the People’s Republic.

After a positive prelude in the Southern Cities of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, the Chambers delegation starts a packed 2-day programme in the Chinese capital Beijing today. The focus then shifts to Shandong Province, the 100 million-population coastal province the Chambers sees as Scotland’s bridgehead to this vast market.

As with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s successful recent trip, the primary job of any Scots mission to China, private or public sector-led is simple: To hammer home that Scotland has a distinct and alluring commercial proposition, and move it up from being 14th in Scotland’s list of export destinations.

That’s not good enough, given what’s at stake here, however many good individual examples we can showcase.

Our mission’s mission? To show Chinese businesses that they would be doing themselves and their customers a favour by allying themselves to Scots ingenuity, creativity, integrity and quality.

As well as Chambers Network members, participants include Dangerous Studios, Lochaven International, Premiership Experience, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, Sinclair Subsea, the Universities of Aberdeen and the West of Scotland (UWS), World Teachers and digital agency Zudu.

It is hard of course for any country’s message to be heard in a market of 1.3 billion people, and a cacophony of competing voices. But it certainly can’t be done without businesses coming out here and forging connections, and finding creative ways to partner with Chinese counterparts, large and small.

In China, more than anywhere else, things happen when business people meet business people – if (only if) you’re ready to move at Chinese speed and to follow-up relentlessly. Day one of visit has thrown up several examples of that for our companies: watch this space for their stories.

As reported at the weekend, Scottish Chambers has already managed to secure an agreement with the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC) to access opportunities to China’s multi-trillion Belt and Road initiative, the key international infrastructure mega-project of the modern era.

Another big breakthrough before the mission itself got underway was achieved when Liz Cameron, Chambers Chief Executive was invited to address a Conference on the International Exchange of Professionals, under the aegis of SAFEA, the State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs.

This unmemorably-named quango, or “parastatal” in China-watching jargon, name but it is front and centre of the story of the country’s astonishing, accelerating internationalisation over the last 30 years. Last week Nicola Sturgeon announced that UWS had managed to achieve a breakthrough accreditation via SAFEA to provide expertise and training in areas from midwifery to computing.

The SCC message to the conference on behalf of our university members, is that our academic members represent a vast repository of research and teaching excellence in a myriad of areas of interest to China. A list could include robotics, AI, energy engineering, bioscience, medicine, digital media, town planning, aerospace, but there are many more.

Liz Cameron’s takeaway from the weekend’s conversations, which also included a British Chambers of Commerce in Hong Kong-hosted lunch with the First Minister, was that Scots universities, some of which have decades of dealings with China are sitting on a goldmine of further opportunities.

For the next six days we’re here to learn, to create, facilitate, and add what value we can through our connections in China for our Network participants. There are encouraging signs that the patient groundwork SCC has been laying, in partnership with the Scottish Government, is paying off.

There is something in the (radically improved!) air of Beijing that can inspire any business that wants to compete internationally. The transformation of China has not happened by accident but by relentless self-criticism and drive to do better. We’re here to learn how.



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