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Recap: CBBC Chair and Chief Executive visit China

In their first visit to China since 2019, CBBC's Chair says "China is existentially important for the United Kingdom", while its Chief Executive says it "feels like something of a reset or relaunch moment" for the two countries

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The China-Britain Business Council’s Chair, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, and Chief Executive, Andrew Seaton, visited Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou at the end of May – their first to China since 2019

The visit included a range of meetings with senior Chinese Government officials as well as attending events with CBBC members and stakeholders across China.

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The first stop on Sir Sherard’s visit to China took him to Qianhai, Shenzhen, where he attended the CBBC Greater Bay Area Working Group Preparatory Meeting. Joining the meeting were Wang Jinxia, Deputy Director of Qianhai Authority, Matt Moody, Consul General of the British Consulate General in Guangzhou, and Tom Simpson, Managing Director, China, CBBC.

Sir Sherard attended the CBBC Greater Bay Area Working Group Preparatory Meeting

Member companies including HSBC, RELX, Swire, Standard Chartered Bank, Thoughtworks and IHG shared their thoughts with the working group, which aims to promote greater collaboration between the UK and the Greater Bay Area across key sectors through advocacy, cooperation with local partners, and sharing the latest research and information on the region.

“The British business community is watching the development of the Greater Bay Area with great interest,” said Sir Sherard. “UK companies consider it to be an important driver for their Greater China operations.”

In Shanghai, the Chair and Chief Executive attended a reception at Harrods Tea Rooms. Speakers at the reception included Zhu Yi, Deputy Director of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, Chris Wood , Consul General, British Consulate Shanghai, and CBBC’s Tom Simpson.

“We all know that the past few years have seen tremendous challenges to the context for business relationships, not least in developments in the global economy, but we and our member companies – many of whom have found a welcoming home in Shanghai – nonetheless remain committed to long-term development in and with China,” said Sir Sherard.

The CBBC team met with Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Jining and visited the electric car company NIO to find out more about the company’s international expansion plans.

Sir Sherard met with Chen Jing, Party Secretary of Shanghai Municipal Committee

“CBBC continues to support economic exchange between the UK and China and provide a stable platform for engagement between our members and Shanghai. Shanghai remains a major focal point for British investment in China. We look forward to following up on today’s exchange over the coming months and working together with the Shanghai municipal government to resume engagement both here in China and in the UK,” said Chen

From Shanghai, the delegation moved to Beijing, where a reception was held at Swire’s Opposite House Hotel attended by HM Trade Commissioner John Edwards, Vice Chairman of CCPIT Zhang Shaogang, and Tom Simpson.

“China is existentially important for the United Kingdom. And we too can help China with its quality development,” said Sir Sherard in Beijing. “What we need to do in the weeks and months ahead is rebuild those contacts between ministers, officials, students, tourists, scientists, all the natural connectivity between our two great countries.”

During the Beijing visit, Sir Sherard spoke at a panel during the CCPIT Summit and a dinner event with Dominic Barton, Chair of Rio Tinto, and also met with Yin Li, Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee. He was joined by Andrew Seaton, Tom Simpson, and representatives from CBBC member companies, including Clifford Chance, Haleon, Prudential, Rio Tinto, Schroders and WBA.

Sir Sherard shared his view on the topic “Pool the Strengths of Trade Promotion Agencies for Open Development” during the CCPIT’s Global Trade & Investment Promotion Summit

“I hope that CBBC will continue to support multinational companies to expand their investment and business in Beijing, and we will further improve our services to create a first-class business environment for these companies, which is market-oriented, legal and international,” said Yin Li.

“CBBC will further harness our strengths to foster cooperation with Beijing in a wide range of sectors, including trade and investment, green technology, financial and legal services and healthcare, and drive more British companies to develop in Beijing,” said Sir Sherard.

Guangzhou followed Beijing, and a meeting was held between Lin Keqing – Chairman of the Guangdong CPPCC, Member of Standing Committee of CPC Guangdong Provincial Committee, and Guangzhou Party Secretary, with CBBC members including AstraZeneca, BP, Clifford Chance, HSBC, IHG, Standard Chartered Bank, Thoughtworks and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

Sir Sherard and Andrew Seaton attended a meeting with Lin Keqing and others in Guangzhou alongside CBBC members

“I hope that CBBC will continue to engage with the Guangdong government to support British companies in their participation in the development of the Greater Bay Area, while helping Guangdong companies in understanding the regulations of the UK and networking with overseas partners. I also hope CBBC and its member companies will continue to support Guangdong companies investing in the UK, allowing them to better ‘go global’,” said Lin Keqing.

“When I arrived in Shenzhen ten days ago, we signed an MoU between CBBC and Qianhai to promote cooperation between the Greater Bay Area and the UK. Today, returning to Guangdong at the end of this visit has a poetic, commercial, economic, and cultural significance. We look forward to maintaining the Great Bay Area’s force and energy in the future,” said Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles.

At the end of the visit, CBBC’s Chief Executive, Andrew Seaton, said that “it feels like this is something of a reset or relaunch moment, and this visit has brought up the scale of the opportunity in China.” He said that “there is a real sense of wanting to see British companies become involved here and invest here.”

Sir Sherard said that for many of the 500 or so CBBC membership companies, many have been in China for a long time, and what they really need in these times is an “advocate for their relationships when there are political headwinds.

“We need to reconnect our two countries after a difficult few years, so will be encouraging ministers and other senior leaders to visit China from the UK.” Furthermore, he encouraged CBBC members in the UK to come out to China and meet partners and clients face to face.

“CBBC is about human connectivity. About connecting real people, real ideas and real economies so that people’s prosperity, security and happiness benefit from the exchanges between Britain and China,” he said.

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