European businesses yearn for Chinese market despite COVID-19 pandemic

Photo taken on March 12, 2020 shows a woman passing by a body temperature monitor at a duty-free shopping mall in Sanya City, south China's Hainan Province. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)
Photo taken on March 12, 2020 shows a woman passing by a body temperature monitor at a duty-free shopping mall in Sanya City, south China's Hainan Province. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)

· The Chinese market is very important to British companies, especially by 2030

domingo 26 de septiembre de 2021, 08:44h

LONDON (By Xinhua writer Sun Xiaoling, Xinhua) -- Powerful consumption driven by massive middle class, a sustainable and inclusive business climate, innovative dynamics, economic resilience, booming imports and exports trade ... These are reasons given by European business leaders for their confidence in the Chinese market and expanding investment in the promising country.


During the COVID-19 pandemic, luxury brand Rapport London shifted its focus to digital economy, seeing a strong double-digit percentage growth in its online business across the world, especially in the booming online market of China.

"The Chinese market is set to become the largest luxury market by 2025, and we want to be a part of this growth," said Oliver Rapport, the CEO of Rapport London, in an interview with Xinhua.

"The importance of the Chinese market is paramount," said Rapport, adding that the luxury goods market in the Chinese mainland saw a significant boost in consumer spending in 2020 and is expected to grow continuously into the year of 2025.

Noting that his company has set up online stores on Chinese e-commerce platforms, including WeChat and Alibaba, both well-known to Chinese consumers, Rapport said. "It's a great opportunity for us, and we have received very welcoming responses on our social platforms such as Little Red Book, Weibo and again, WeChat."

Talking about the company's next move in China in the post-pandemic era, Rapport said that in addition to digital sales, he plans to open offline stores in collaboration with Chinese partners.

Swiss chocolate brand Laderach is also eyeing a sweet spot in this growing market, with ambitious expansion plans into China.

Laderach CEO Johannes Laderach said it was time to expand beyond the chocolate-loving nation of Switzerland, and head East. This comes after the nation's chocolate industry took a hard hit during the pandemic and Swiss per capita consumption of chocolate decreased to its lowest level in 40 years.

"A year ago we started with an online presence at Tmall, and in our own online store with a small team in China. The sales exceeded our wildest expectations. We are now opening our retail presence earlier than planned," he told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Exhibitors introduce chocolate to visitors at the booth of Switzerland in the exhibition hall of Special Area for Countries, Provinces, Regions and Cities during the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhang Chuanqi)

He stressed that Shanghai would mark a first entry point into the vast Chinese market. "We really believe in the city of Shanghai as the business capital of China. Other cities will also follow, and of course with our e-commerce presence we are available in the whole of China," he said.

China is expected to see the size of its private consumption more than double in the next decade, making the world's second largest economy a global consumption powerhouse, matching the size of the current U.S. market, according to a research report released earlier this year by Morgan Stanley.

"China is probably going to be the number one GDP country in the world in 2030. At the same time, the number of middle-class people within China is growing significantly," said John McLean, newly-appointed chair of the Institute of Directors for the City of London.

"The Chinese market is very important to British companies, especially by 2030," McLean told Xinhua.


Facing plummeting sales and factory shutdowns due to supply chain disruptions and staff shortages in the pandemic era, European manufacturers are looking to China for a safer, more promising future.

German auto industry supplier ZF Friedrichshafen feels "at home" in China, the company's CEO said recently, vowing to further deepen localization in the world's largest passenger car and truck market.

"Our teams in China have played their role as it is a country like Germany, where we have the capabilities to deploy and develop a full system," Wolf-Henning Scheider, also ZF's chairman, told Xinhua at the International Motor Show Germany (IAA Mobility) held in Munich, Germany earlier this September, noting that ZF has set up its first "global homerooms" in China, where new products can be developed for the global market.

In the fields of alternative energies and e-mobility, China is "at the forefront," said the chief executive.

A man works at the Tiexi Plant of BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, Feb. 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Pan Yulong)

German luxury carmaker BMW is determined to continue its close cooperation with China's automobile industry to promote the sustained, long-term and rapid development of its business, said Oliver Zipse, chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, in a recent interview.

The BMW Group considers China one of its most important markets for innovation, Zipse told Xinhua during the IAA Mobility.

BMW's largest supplier of battery cells is currently the Chinese company CATL. In the field of digitalization, BMW has established its own digital companies, and it cooperates with several Chinese companies, including Tencent and Alibaba, to continuously strengthen its digital footprint, Zipse said.

The Chinese market is a major driving force for innovation and development, and BMW will continue to cooperate with local players in the Chinese automotive industry to provide quality products and premium experiences for Chinese customers, he said.

"There is a wide range of fields that Chinese and European businesses could tap the potential of cooperation. For instance, tackling climate change and transforming into greener development are missions that Chinese and European businesses share," said Xu Haifeng, Chairman of China Chamber of Commerce to the European Union.

Aerial photo taken on Feb. 21, 2021 shows the first China-Europe freight train linking St. Petersburg of Russia with Chengdu departing the Chengdu International Railway Port in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province. (Chengdu International Railway Port Administrative Committee/Handout via Xinhua)


China overtook the United States last year as the EU's biggest trading partner in 2020, according to the EU statistics agency Eurostat.

Meanwhile, China surpassed Germany as Britain's biggest single import market in the first quarter of 2021, the British Office for National Statistics has said.

China's global market share has risen substantially in the past two years, British think tank Oxford Economics said in a report in August.

"In any case, China's strong export performance since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic underscores that the global supply chains developed in recent decades -- and in which China plays a key role -- are much 'stickier' than many suspected," said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia Economics at Oxford Economics and also author of the report.

With almost half a century of experience in doing business with China, Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain's 48 Group Club, has witnessed first-hand the extraordinary growth of China's market following the period of reform and opening-up.

"We only have to look at the statistics for the last year and a half to see how the world's economy collapsed with the impact of COVID-19 and then how fast China was to recover. When other countries were still beginning to go into collapse, China was starting to recover," Perry said.

"Chinese demand is good. The domestic economy is buying a lot of goods from the world markets. So for everybody around the world, China is the place to go to, the place to try to do business in," Perry added.

(Pan Geping and Li Jizhi in Brussels, Yang Xiaohong in Prague, Chen Junxia, Jiang Xuelan and Xu Chi in Geneva, Jin Jing in London, Zhu Sheng in Berlin, Tang Ji and Chen chen in Paris, Ye Xinke in Rome and Shen Zhonghao in Frankfort also contributed to the story.)

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