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Change that brings numerous opportunities for overseas investors

By Zhong Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-20 09:10
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Visitors learn about China's new energy vehicles during the 135th session of the China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on April 15, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

There was a time when it was said that China would exchange "1 billion shirts for an imported Boeing plane". Now, the country is accelerating the transformation and upgrade of its industrial, energy and transportation structures. Production and lifestyle have changed radically, too. I'd argue this transformation presents numerous opportunities for foreign investments.

From the perspective of global manufacturers, automobile makers, retailers and service providers, the Chinese market has become their "fitness center". Operating here, they learn from local consumers and make necessary adjustments and improvements. These insights can then be applied to their businesses in other parts of the world.

From my numerous interviews with many MNC executives, I gather that the digitalization and green transformations will propel industries toward greater sophistication, intelligence and sustainability in China. This trend will see demand in the Chinese market becoming more diverse, with higher expectations for service speed and quality.

CEOs of a large number of MNCs visited China in the first four months of this year. More are expected in the rest of the year. Events such as the 135th China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair), the 2024 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition (Auto China 2024) and various specialized exhibitions have attracted numerous foreign companies for exhibitions, deals and negotiations.

They believe that China has the largest market scale in the world, and with the upgrade of consumption structure, domestic demand in the country will continue to expand. Additionally, the steady advancement of China's industrial transformation and upgrade is a continuous iteration and upgrade of the country's economic growth engine.

Driven by innovation, China's production efficiency will significantly improve, thereby promoting high-quality economic development, said foreign business leaders.

MNCs have been making inroads into the Chinese market for many years. Their business models, operations teams and supply chains have all been localized, fully leveraging policy benefits and talent advantages.

In the past, China was highly competitive in labor-intensive and other traditional industries, attracting substantial foreign capital to establish production bases in its market to leverage its comparative advantages for exports. Now, it aims to upgrade its industries, promote technological innovation and industrial advancement, utilizing both domestic and foreign capital to jointly enhance its productivity.

While foreign investment in China continues to increase, the structure and focus of these investments are changing. Earlier, foreign firms would think in terms of setting up a single production base. Now, they aim to set up regional headquarters, functional centers, R&D hubs and so forth. Besides, global companies want to use new investment models to seize development opportunities in China.

In addition to expanding innovative activities in China, many global companies such as the Swiss-Swedish industrial conglomerate ABB Ltd and Harman International, a US-based auto parts manufacturer, export high-end products, like industrial robots and digital cockpits, manufactured at their plants in China to other parts of the world.

China has a stable policy environment and the most complete industrial system in the world, capable of providing a high-efficiency, high-reliability industrial support system for foreign investment. The nation's comprehensive infrastructure network, abundant talent resources and rich innovation application scenarios create favorable investment opportunities for foreign businesses in new technologies, industries and business models.

China's decisive move in 2023 to completely remove foreign investment access restrictions in the manufacturing sector will be key to addressing the accelerated restructuring of global industrial and supply chains in the short term, thereby stabilizing the proportion of manufacturing within the country.

Over the long term, this measure is expected to leverage market competition to drive the transformation and development of China's manufacturing sector, while also attracting foreign businesses to the services sector.

In the highly competitive Chinese market, only companies with superior technology, management, data and business models will thrive. The Chinese market has become a premier competitive arena for both domestic and foreign companies.

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