I recently had the honour of being the only North East entrepreneur to be invited on a trade visit to China with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.
The opportunity came totally out of the blue, but clearly we are doing something right, and this was an invite I had to accept.
Having spent a week in the world’s largest nation, I can now truly appreciate the opportunities on offer for North East businesses.
Our schedule was relentless, taking in Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and we were given the opportunity to meet business leaders from some of China’s largest internet and technology companies, including Baidu, Alibaba, 10 Cent and Huawei.
You may not have heard of them, but more than 90% of Chinese internet users search on Baidu each month, and if you own a 3G dongle the chances are it was made by Huawei, who are also challenging Cisco’s dominance of the global networking market.
What really struck me is how much the reality of doing business in China differs from the popular impression.
For example, many people think that the Chinese are happy to export but mistrustful of any companies want to import products or services.
I don’t know if it’s because our web accessibility platform offers a service that can be used in any language, but we found the people we met with to be very open to new ideas and keen to potentially work with us.
You may also have heard of the Great Firewall of China, which limits internet connectivity between the country and the rest of the world.
For Cloud-based platforms, such as Recite, this can be a challenge, but within China the web is relatively open.
It’s also possible to host services in Hong Kong, which is within the Great Firewall but also open to the global web.
In fact, with its western-style financial system, Hong Kong provides an ideal gateway to for UK firms wanting to do business in China.
Doing business with China does have its challenges, both cultural and political, but it would be foolish to dismiss the opportunities that exist in the country.
The fact is that Chinese businesses want to be the biggest and best in the world, and they’re not afraid to bring in products and services from abroad to help them to achieve that goal.
We are already recruiting to prepare for our expansion into China and it is also worth noting that UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) can offer all the help and support you need, including assistance from the British Embassy, to help you make the right connections.