Aug 02, 2012 04:25 PM

Chinese Businesses Aim for Gold


(London) – If the Olympics' opening ceremony was how Britons show themselves all dressed up, other activities going on now show their ever-pragmatic approach to business.

Just a day before the Games began, the Bank of England announced poor second-quarter economic data, a downturn of 0.7 percent. The recession is worse than expected.

Obviously Britain was not going to waste the opportunities presented by the event. Using the world's attention as a magnet, it has organized more than a dozen business summits, including China Business Day and Brazil Business Day, which are devoted to discussing business opportunities with host cities of the previous and next Games.

Among the 8,000 accredited reporters who have come to London, 700 hail from China. This probably explains why several meetings are organized specifically between Chinese journalists and members from the All Party Parliamentary Group for East Asian Business; London & Partners, the official promotional organization for London; the Greater London Authority; and not surprisingly the London Chamber of Commerce. All aim to attract both Chinese investors and consumers.

Are other countries jealous of this unique attention?

"China is indeed the biggest focus," David Slater, London & Partners Global Sales Director said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to showcase what London can offer."

Slater said that London & Partners employs seven staff members who speak Chinese precisely to introduce investment possibilities in London. China comes second after the United States in terms of number of investment deals in the UK.

In 2011, London received more than 30 Chinese investment projects providing 550 job opportunities in sectors such as software, financial services, the creative industries and retailing.

A delegation from the China Entrepreneur Club comprising two dozen top Chinese industrialists occupied the most significant place on the red carpet laid out for global investors. Among the visitors were Liu Chuanzhi, the founder of Lenovo, the world's second biggest PC maker; Ma Weihua, the president of China Merchants Bank; and Yu Minhong, the founder and CEO of New Oriental Education & Technology Group.

This visit initiated by the China Entrepreneur Club received full cooperation from UK Trade and Investment, a government department, which contacted Britain's business elite, including Lord Rothschild; the Virgin Group; the prime minister, mayor; members of the royal family; and other dignitaries.

On July 25, several of these entrepreneurs had a brief meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street followed by a roundtable with the Trade Minister Stephen Green and the Lord Mayor Boris Johnson.

"Although the meeting with Mr. Cameron lasted only about one minute, it was just great," Liu said, "because for the Olympic opening, eighty heads of state will arrive. It is particularly unusual that we were received under such circumstances."

Meanwhile, what the Chinese industrialists brought as a message is also what the British love to hear. The Chinese economy is shifting in a consumer-driven direction, and they are looking for British partners to develop this market together.

China's affluent class has become the object of close attention for the British luxury industry. Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods, London's most famous luxury department store, said that the company's business with the Chinese has grown nine-fold over the past four years. In 2008, its business with the Chinese was two-thirds that of the Americans, whereas it's now five times greater.

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