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British businesses urged to seize China opportunity

By XING YI in Coventry, England | | Updated: 2024-04-20 21:54
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Ambassador Zheng Zeguang speaks at the China-Midlands Cooperation Forum in Coventry on Thursday. [Photo provided to]

China represents an opportunity, not a threat, for the United Kingdom, said diplomats, British business leaders, and local officials at a forum in Coventry, England on Thursday.

Addressing the China-Midlands Cooperation Forum, Zheng Zeguang, China's ambassador to the UK, shared the country's latest economic data and long-term strategies with leaders of around 20 companies, encouraging British businesses to seize the time to engage with the Chinese business community, form partnerships, and create prosperity.

Citing China's strong GDP growth of 5.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, Zheng said that some western media and politicians have been badmouthing China's development for decades, and more recently they have been drumming up the so-called China threat to limit the country's advancement in science and technology.

"But look at the fact and reality," Zheng said. "China has become the second biggest economy in the world, and lifted over 700 million people out of poverty. In terms of the number of patent applications, China ranked first globally, and the country's investment in research and development has been growing by double-digit for quite a few years.

"This is a time of learning from each other and collaborating for the common good. It's not a time for decoupling by the name of derisking," he continued, adding that China has introduced a series of new measures to expand domestic demand, and will continue to expand market access and foster a market-oriented, law-based environment for international business.

Shehzad Chaudhary, Midlands director for international trade and investment at UK's Department for Business and Trade, speaks at Thursday's forum. [Photo provided to]

Sherard Cowper-Coles, chair of China-Britain Business Council, echoed the ambassador's sentiments, and said that in May, he will be leading a senior business delegation to China, visiting cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, to promote Sino-UK trade and cooperation.

Shehzad Chaudhary, Midlands director for international trade and investment at UK's Department for Business and Trade, said the region has tradition and strength in automobile manufacturing, and stressed the importance of working with Chinese companies for the industry's green transformation.

"It's imperative to reduce and eliminate our greenhouse gases and reach net-zero emissions … There is no way anybody is to become successful in electrical vehicles without having some type of cooperation with China," said Chaudhary.

"We are connected in ideas, technologies, and markets, in ways that are very difficult to unpick," he said. "And do we really want to unpick this? We are at our best when we work together, when we share our ideas together, and when we trade together."

John Norton, head of the inward investment team at Coventry City Council, said Coventry is the first UK city to adopt an all-electric bus fleet, and the city is home to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, a national flagship facility for research and manufacturing of modern battery systems.

"A newly designated Coventry and Warwick Gigapark investment zone is designed to attract investors and occupiers to create a world-leading cluster of battery manufacturing," said Norton. "Collaboration with China can positively benefit all parties."

China and British business leaders hold a roundtable on opportunities and challenges for future cooperation at the forum on Thursday. [Photo provided to]

During the forum, UK company representatives from Huntland Pet Food, Amtico International Limited, Cranswick plc, and RLE International Group shared their stories of doing business with China.

Chinese companies' UK subsidiaries and branches, such as LEVC, TusPark, NVC Lighting, Novogene, and Sungrow Power, expressed their willingness to deepen investment in the Midlands region, or interest in exploring business opportunities in the area.

Fang Wenjian, chairman of the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK, said the business communities can build up more people-to-people relations between the two countries, which is the basis for economic cooperation.

"The cooperations we have discussed today, in sectors such as new energy, and life science, are in line with the national strategy of both China and the UK," said Fang.

"Despite challenges, we need to work together to help the people in the UK, including the government, to realize that China represents an opportunity for the UK, not a threat," he said.

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