We are delighted to invite you to take a look back with us at CBBC’s performance over 2021-2022 with the publication of our Annual Report, which brings together highlights of our achievements in membership and commercial activities and our financial statements.
Read on for an introduction to the report by CBBC Chair, Sir Shepard Cowper-Coles
I am delighted to introduce this Annual Report for 2021-2022, after a busy and successful year for the China-Britain Business Council. As I write this foreword, UK exports to China, our third largest trading partner, are proving resilient, surpassing pre-pandemic levels across most UK regions and nations. The size of the China business opportunity is more important than ever to UK business. At a time when restoring economic growth is the top national priority, this underlines the importance of the UK-China trade and investment relationship to the UK economy. The China-Britain Business Council is proud of its role as the voice, and the vehicle, for this vital relationship.
This year has not been easy for the business communities of the United Kingdom or China. Increases in shipping costs and energy prices continue to challenge the bottom line of companies. The effects of the covid pandemic, and associated travel and other restrictions, have made the operating climate more difficult for many of our Members. Meanwhile, geo-political tensions have had an impact on business confidence. The China-Britain Business Council will continue to do all it can to support its Members through these challenging times by championing the importance of economic and commercial ties between our two countries; and by the range of Membership and other services we provide.
Reflecting the more complex political environment, the top-level advocacy and access opportunities we provide to our Members are central to our work. Over this year we have developed a strong series of virtual meetings with senior Chinese policymakers. These are now a key aspect of the Council’s work. I take great encouragement from the messages of support I receive from Member companies who truly value our advocacy work.
The highlight was the virtual meeting CBBC held in the summer of 2021 with Premier Li Keqiang and a group of senior UK business leaders, in which it was made clear that business ties between the UK and China were strong and growing. In his opening remarks, Premier Li commented that “UK-China trade has increased against all odds; investment is also on the rise. These trends show that between China and the UK there are not just shared interests, but space for growth. A sound and steady UK-China relationship is also critical for the growth of trade and investment between our two countries”.
The CBBC believes that a sound economic relationship with China is a foundation which allows the UK to pursue its broader goals with China
No other export market for British business is growing as rapidly as China. Despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic, over the course of 2021, UK goods and services exports to China continued to grow, reaching £18.1 billion and £8.2 billion, respectively. China is where much of the growth will come from for British companies, particularly as the Chinese economy recovers from its current downturn. Indeed, Chinese middle-class consumers are eager to acquire leading British products and services, be they from dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises or world-beating FTSE 100 firms
We at the China-Britain Business Council believe that a sound economic relationship with China is a foundation which allows the UK to pursue its broader goals with China. That relationship means globally competitive companies, employment, and prosperity right across the UK. Some 800 Chinese enterprises in the UK directly employ more than 75,000 people nationwide. Research shows that our exports to China support – at a conservative estimate – a further 120,000 jobs.
Now is certainly not the time for us to turn our backs on all this, or erect arbitrary barriers. It is why CBBC has put so much effort this year in arguing with our political leaders and policymakers for a robust economic and trade relationship, and injecting into the public debate the facts and figures about its significance to the UK economy.
As well as the services for our Members, we have a close working relationship with the UK government to help British business in China, including through the Department for International Trade’s Export Support Service – International Markets (ESS-IM), which CBBC delivers for DIT in partnership with Grant Thornton, one of our Members.
On the ground in China, our network has remained very busy working with and for our Members. During a period in which there have been few government- to-government engagements, CBBC has been able to provide a platform for our Members to engage with senior Chinese leaders, not just with Premier Li Keqiang, but also Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua, and the governors, ministers, and party secretaries from a wide range of China’s major provinces, ministries, and bureaus.
Some of CBBC’s business lines have inevitably felt the impact of the more difficult operating environment – in particular, the covid-related travel restrictions. But our Launchpad service saw increased interest, particularly from the higher education sector, as our clients sought to drive student recruitment and partnership development in a market that continues to be of great importance to UK higher education.
Our Membership has proved highly resilient through this period. We continue to serve a community of hundreds of businesses, and we have been very pleased with the increase in our Premium Membership from both FTSE 100 and 250 companies.
The China-Britain Business Council – the UK’s leading China business organisation – continues to work hard on its mission of helping its Members develop and promote their business in the complex and challenging China market.
We do this through:
- On the ground market entry and business development advice and support in China and the UK;
- Expert analysis and insights on policy, regulations, and developments in-market;
- An apolitical platform and independent voice for our Members; and
- Access for our Members to senior level government policy makers and regulators.
No other body provides this capacity.
I am proud of everything that we have been able to achieve over the last year, with the support of our Members and stakeholders, and want to take this opportunity to thank you warmly for this. I am very grateful for the strong support of the CBBC Board. And I wish to place on record my appreciation and thanks to the entire CBBC team for their hard work, enthusiasm, and commitment through this year. As a result of these successes, I am confident we are in a strong position to support our Members and their customers through 2023 and beyond.