The COVID-19 pandemic has exerted varying degrees of impact on Chinese enterprises in the UK and imposed uncertainties on China-UK relations. To boost the confidence of Chinese investors in the UK and promote economic exchanges and cooperation, the CCCUK, China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) and the 48 Group Club co-hosted a series of activities themed. “China-UK Online Roundtable on Investment”. Political and business leaders from China and the UK invited to attend two online roundtable discussions on concerns among Chinese companies, such as challenges and prospects of investment in the UK.
1. Communicating with British business representatives and voicing for Chinese companies in the UK
In mid-April, as the epidemic situation in the UK became increasingly severe, some anti-China sentiment was rising in the Conservative Party. Unclear policies and a relatively unfavourable public opinion environment have brought challenges to some Chinese companies’ operations and raised concerns about their continued investment and development in the UK.
To voice for Chinese enterprises in the UK and help create a better business environment, CCCUK, together with CBBC and The 48 Group Club, hosted the 2020 UK-China Online Roundtable on Investment on 30 April. FANG Wenjian, Chairman of the CCCUK and President of Bank of China London Branch; Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles KCMG LVO, Chairman of the CBBC; Stephen Perry, Chairman of the 48 Group Club; Sir Simon Fraser, Managing Partner of Flint Global; 9 representatives from Chinese enterprises in the UK, and chief executives of the CBBC, who discussed the development and challenges of trade and investment between the two countries present at the event.
FANG said in his welcome speech that CCCUK, CBBC and the 48 Group Club, thanks to their frequent interaction and exchanges and multiple in-depth discussions on China-UK cooperation, have made an essential contribution to China-UK economic and trade cooperation. He noted that it is the best time for tripartite collaboration, hoping that the dialogue can deepen mutual understanding between the two countries and make the appeals of Chinese companies known to the British government.
In the communication, representatives of Chinese companies, active in making the statement, shared with the British representatives their views on issues related to the management and investment of Chinese enterprise, coupled with truthful information of their concerns and appeals. Representatives of Chinese enterprises expressed their wishes for targeted fiscal and tax supporting policies from the UK government and their concerns over the imbalanced public opinion of the British society on China issues.
Sir Sherard Cowper shared his views on the anti-China opinions among some British politicians. He said the effort to promote friendly China-UK relations is in line with the economic interests of both countries. Despite the dissonance, many at the top of the British government have shown a clear understanding of confidence in substantial economic, commercial, and cultural ties between China and the UK. China and the UK should seek common ground while shelving differences, working together to maximize common interests. Besides, to skillfully counter the anti-China rhetoric, the China-Britain Business Council is contacting Members of Parliament (MPs) and large British companies doing business with China to advance publicity work gradually.
Chairman Stephen Perry said indirection or deviousness rather than confrontation should consider handling anti-China opinions. The current anti-China behaviours in the British government were more about attracting people’s attention, but we must be mindful of the danger that these lies might become mainstream views. Therefore, we need to stay well prepared, call for voices from senior British business leaders, and adopt many means to promote the sound development of China-UK relations.
Sir Simon Fraser said that China-UK relations are in an extraordinary period. In the long run, demands for investment will not change among the UK economy and the various sectors. However, we should see the urgent need for actions to ensure that British public opinion will not turn against China in the short term and to keep the balance of public opinion as long as possible. It requires not only artful and discrete approaches but also concerted efforts from the two countries.
At the meeting, good communication between the two sides resulted in improved mutual understanding and consensus on promoting the social development of China-UK relations. The British representatives listened carefully to what Chinese enterprises in the UK expected of the British government. A submission based on their views and appeals was sent to Lord Grimstone, Minister for Investment, Department of International Trade.
2. Dialogue with Lord Grimstone, Minister for Investment, Department of International Trade and HE Ambassador LIU Xiaoming
Lord Grimstone attached great importance to the feedback from Chinese companies after receiving the letter of advice. He expressed the hope that he could communicate directly with the representatives of Chinese companies as soon as possible to understand their needs better and provide support for Chinese companies to invest in the UK. On 29 May, the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK and the China-Britain Business Council hosted the 2020 China-UK High-Level Roundtable on Investment.
The event was attended by nearly 50 people, including HE Ambassador LIU Xiaoming, Lord Grimstone, Chairman FANG Wenjian, Sir Sherard Cowper, heads of 22 member units CCCUK, and related persons in charge of the China-Britain Business Council.
The Ambassador said in his speech that, in the face of the rampant epidemic, to have a correct view of the future China-UK relations, we have three undaunted confidences: the confidence in the Chinese economy and economic globalization; the enthusiasm in China-UK relations; the confidence in China-UK business cooperation and the trust in economic globalization and openness and collaboration. He hoped that both sides could seize the opportunities, take proactive steps, turn certainty into the driving force of cooperation, and deliver more cooperation outcomes. In the “post-epidemic era”, the two countries can cooperate in the following four areas:
Lord Grimstone mentioned that China is an essential partner of the UK, and Prime Minister Johnson’ supports constructive China-UK relations. Some of the negative media comments about China do not represent the British government’s attitude and policy towards China, and Chinese investment remains welcome for the UK. Since 2000, the UK has attracted more Chinese investments than any other EU countries. Between 2000 and 2019, China’s investment in the UK exceeded 50 billion euros, and Chinese investment and business in the UK are in the common interests of both sides. In the post-epidemic and post-Brexit era, the UK and China can further strengthen trade and investment cooperation. The British side is willing to listen to the views of Chinese companies and actively help them solve their business difficulties to provide convenience and support for more Chinese companies to invest in the UK.
Chairman FANG Wenjian said, in recent years, business cooperation between China and the UK has yielded fruitful results, making the UK a preferred investment destination for Chinese companies. By operating in the UK and increasingly integrating into the local society, many Chinese enterprises contribute to the local economy and employment. Though under economic and political pressure, Chinese enterprises stay faithful in their aspirations to join the building of a “global Britain” in the post-Brexit era. He hoped that the meeting would help Chinese enterprises better understand the challenges and opportunities of investing and developing in the UK and push the business cooperation to a new height.
Sir Sherard Cowper said that given that UK-China relations are now at a critical stage, the roundtable conference held this time is of greater significance. Cooperation between China and the UK requires joint efforts from both sides, calling for mutual respect, seeking common ground while shelving differences and pursuing joint development. He hoped that the two sides would deepen mutual trust, pursue win-win results, and establish closer economic and trade ties.
At the conference, CAO Li, Vice Chairman of CCCUK and General Manager of China Telecom (Europe) Co., Ltd, and YING Xu, CEO of Headquarters Base (London) Investment Co. Ltd, respectively briefed HE Ambassador Liu and Lord Grimstone on the investment and development of Chinese enterprises in the telecommunications and real estate construction sectors. For concern among the Chinese enterprises, such as how to deepen China-UK economic, trade and investment cooperation, and advance technological innovation and collaboration between the two countries’ companies, the Ambassador and Lord Grimstone offered answers.
The event won the attention of Chinese enterprises in the UK and the high evaluation of the participants. The participating enterprises approved the event’s excellent outcomes, looking forward to more similar opportunities for direct communication with senior government officials in China and the UK.
The successful hosting of the China-UK Investment Online Roundtable has enhanced mutual understanding and trust between Chinese companies in the UK and the British government and business community and strengthened their confidence in investing and developing in the UK. Chinese companies in the UK will continue to enhance cooperation with the UK, turn the crisis into opportunities, actively explore new opportunities for China-UK collaboration. And deliver more practical outcomes to the people of our two countries in the “post-epidemic era” to create a better future for China-UK relations.
新冠肺炎疫情对在英中资企业的经营产生了不同程度的影响，也为中英关系带来了一些不确定因素。为提振中资企业在英投资和发展的信心，增进中英两国在经贸领域的交流和合作，英国中国商会与英中贸易协会（CBBC）与48家集团俱乐部（The 48 Group Club）于近期共同举办了“中英投资线上圆桌会议”系列活动。中英两国政商界高层受邀参与两场线上圆桌对话，针对在英投资面临的挑战和中英投资发展前景等中资企业关心的话题进行了交流和探讨。
为帮助在英中资企业发声，创造更好的营商环境，英国中国商会联合英中贸易协会与48家集团俱乐部，于4月30日共同举办2020年“中英投资线上圆桌会议”。英国中国商会会长、中国银行伦敦分行行长方文建、英中贸易协会主席古沛勤爵士（Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles KCMG LVO）、48家集团俱乐部主席斯蒂芬·佩里（Stephen Perry）、Flint Global管理合伙人弗雷泽爵士（Sir Simon Fraser）、9名在英中资企业代表和英中贸易协会主要领导参加活动并就当前中英贸易投资发展情况和挑战进行了现场讨论。