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The China-Europe Connector

By Gary Bowerman, published in bizchinaupdate.com, 22 September 2007

 

Frank-Jürgen Richter is President of Geneva-based Horasis, which provides global strategy advice to corporations in Asia , Europe and North America . A former director of Asian affairs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he is the founder of the China Europe Business Meeting which gathers together Chinese, European and western CEOs to debate key issues of mutual concern. This year's China Europe Business Meeting takes place in Frankfurt , 7-9 November.

What were the founding objectives of the China Europe Business Meeting?

F-JR: The founding objective was to provide Chinese firms a platform to globalise their operations. The meeting offers multiple means to gain insight from and access to business leaders and key government officials. The next China Europe Business Meeting in Frankfurt , on 7-9 November, will bring together more than 300 leaders under the theme "Globalising Chinese Firms". This theme reflects the increased emphasis of Chinese firms to build global and sustainable brands. The programme is structured to provide a maximum amount of knowledge exchange and interaction in a variety of formal and informal settings. The meeting is being held in the recognition that visions within the Sino-European economic sphere require thought leadership and mutually beneficial peer-to-peer networks.

How has the event evolved over the last three years?

F-JR: The China Europe Business Meeting has come at a critical international moment for Chinese business leaders. Interaction with Western CEOs can help outline elements of globalisation strategies for Chinese firms. Initially mainly targeting their counterparts from Europe , the 2007 meeting will be also attended by CEOs from North and South America , India , Russia , the Middle East and Africa . Our intention is to create a global meeting bringing together CEOs from emerging markets – with China at the core – and business leaders from the developed word. We manage to attract high-profile Chinese and global CEOs year after year, creating a community of senior business leaders. Chinese CEOs have great confidence in this meeting as a global platform for engaged dialogue with the developed nations of the west.

Which sessions are you personally most excited by at this year's CEBM?

F-JR: I am most excited about a session on sustainable development, one that was requested by our Chinese partners. Chinese firms increasingly acknowledge the importance of long-term development goals in accord with society and the environment. The Chinese government has taken sustainable development as an important objective for China 's economic and social development. Other sessions are on mergers and acquisitions, branding, private equity and corporate globalisation – all are practical topics to support Chinese firms' growth to global eminence. After all, I hope that participants will encounter multiple business opportunities while voicing suggestions and making appeals at the various sessions.

What are the key issues for discussion between European and Chinese business leaders in the immediate future?

F-JR: A key issue for discussions is the potential backlash against Chinese firms wishing to expand into Europe and North America . ‘China Bashing' is the talk of the day in Washington, DC, as well as – sadly – also increasingly in Brussels and various European capitals. Blaming the Chinese is very fashionable these days: on intellectual property rights, poisoned toys and the trade deficit. The criticism of China by mainstream commentators is discriminatory. That is where China-bashing gets dangerous – it violates the free market economy. We need a strong China . China is the world's new growth engine. And we should face China 's teething problems in a mild mood – China 's economy is like a child in puberty, there are problems, of course, but the country will soon reach maturity. What we need is dialogue. We must work with China to help it get through its growing pains. The China Europe Business Meeting is about dialogue and not confrontation.

One of your sessions will discuss Chinese business investment in Europe. What recent trends have you noticed in this regard?

F-JR: First, China is assuming a greater leadership role in world affairs, even though China 's transition from a command to market economy will continue to be gradual. China 's policies and practices on trade, energy and geopolitics will increasingly shape the global agenda in general and Europe in particular. Second, China 's rise has been accompanied by an enhanced recognition of entrepreneurship. Mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and foreign listings might be viable options for future corporate development. Chinese firms must be ready to transform strategic foresight proactively into execution and growth. In this regard, Europe will offer vast opportunities. Third, firms operating in China should benefit from the abundant growth opportunities the country represents. Still, they will need patience as achieving long term profitability may be a more realistic target than short term gains. Multinationals need to sustain product value in order to gain and maintain market share.

You speak at conferences worldwide. What issues have you been invited to address this year?

F-JR: I try to advocate a balanced world, with globalisation providing benefits to everybody, not just a few. And I try to oppose all kind of Machiavellian thinking which usually promotes that the end justifies the means. China bashing is such kind of Machiavellism. China as an emerging force on the global economic stage underscores a profound trend in American and European economic life. We fought for the creation of a global capitalist system – now that we have one, we seem to have forgotten that capitalism means competition. But we are acting like we cannot handle it. We need to create a win-win framework where China can co-exist with the Western world. At my public appearances I usually call on the business community to build trust amongst the Chinese and global business communities, turning them from a gathering of minds into a true partnership of results.


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