The chief executive of the China-Britain Business Council was invited to give a lecture at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University on 13 January at a special Sino-UK seminar on trade and investment cooperation under China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative (BRI).
Stephen Phillips spoke to faculty, students and media at the seminar on strategies for British companies to work with Chinese partners under the BRI, setting out the main industry sectors, the impact upon global supply chains, collaboration in third markets and niche opportunities in countries along the New Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Route Economic Belt.
“In the next two decades, the BRI has the potential to become the biggest part of the UK-China business relationship,” said Phillips, drawing examples from a 2016 report by CBBC and Tsinghua University which showed how British and Chinese businesses are already working together in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa on BRI-related projects worth over US$27 billion.
The territory covered by the Belt and Road routes includes some 66 per cent of the world’s population, but only 33 per cent of its GDP – which should make the initiative highly attractive to businesses, Phillips noted.
“This is much more than infrastructure and financial services,” he stressed. “Many more UK companies in different fields can get involved.”
Britain’s transparent legal system is particularly attractive to Chinese companies, according to Professor Gao Xiqing of the Tsinghua School of Law – formerly president of China Investment Corporation – who also spoke at the seminar. “This is the UK’s number one strength,” he said.
There are also challenges. Accessing finance in some of the less predictable countries along the Belt and Road routes was cited at the seminar as a potential obstacle, and Phillips emphasised that many businesses still did not have a good enough understanding of the likely impact of the BRI on global supply chains.
Conversely, other areas, such as green finance, may find fertile ground to develop as the initiative unfolds. There will also be demand for providers of vocational training, healthcare and agricultural technology, among others, said Phillips, who was recently appointed as an advisor to the Institute for Industrial Innovation and Finance at Tsinghua University.
The China-Britain Business Council ran a series of seminars in China and the UK in 2016 for British and Chinese companies to learn how to get involved in the Belt and Road initiative and to meet business partners. For details of our plans for 2017 contact email@example.com (UK) or firstname.lastname@example.org (China).