Good evening Ningbo Business Club members and distinguished guests.
I am delighted to see so many of you here tonight attending the second Business To Business networking reception of the Ningbo Business Club, which is brought to you in this magnificent Shangri La Hotel setting by Ningbo Focus – our media partner – Point Corporate Services, and Reindeer Station.
By way of introduction, in August 1988 courtesy of a Chinese Government Scholarship I came to Beijing to study the Chinese language and foreign trade. I assured all my family and friends “just one-year and I will be return back to Ireland. Well, that was 25 years ago and, as you can see, I am still here!
Once the dynamism and buzz of day by day living and working China breeds permeates your skin… well, it stays there, and with respect to Ningbo, for very obvious reasons:
- We are in a city which in 2012 registered GDP of RMB 652.47 billion, at an annual growth rate of 7.8%
- where the GDP per capita, by resident population count, is over US$13,500 and heading towards the US$20,000 mark by the end of 2016
- A city that in 2012 recorded an import / export trade value of US$96.6 billion.
Ningbo is now firmly on the map as a leading business city in China in its own right and nowhere is dynamic change more evident than in Ningbo’s infrastructure construction boom:
- The CRH high-speed train I took this afternoon from Hangzhou East Station to Ningbo East Station involved a journey of only one hour. Two years ago I recall a rail journey of over two hours. The completely new 150 kilometres high-speed railway line between the two cities took less than two years to construct.
- The 35.7 kilometres long Hangzhou Bay Bridge, which took only four years to build, now makes driving to Shanghai is now a breeze
Looking out the window of this 33rd floor presidental suite at the spectacular views it is clear Ningbo’s infrastructure investment explosion over the past 5 years is simply beyond staggering.
Yet, given that we are living and doing business in the city that hosts the World’s second (soon to be) largest trading port… Where else would you want to be?
Perhaps you have heard, or not heard, about the story of the six blind monks who are asked to determine what an elephant looks like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body.
- The first blind monk touches a leg and says the elephant is a pillar.
- The second blind monk touches the tail and says the elephant is a rope.
- The third monk touches the trunk and believes it is a tree branch.
… and so on until the
- The sixth blind monk who feels the tusk and says the elephant is a spear.
Each blind monk could feel a part of the elephant, and are certain they had the whole of the elephant.
However, in reality they only had a part of it. None could grasp the reality of the big picture: Many of us look at China in the same way.
The media, both here in China and outside, can distort our awareness and perceptions about China by sensationalising the good and the bad, while from time to time its seems that everyone has a different opinion about what is going on..
So how do we make sense of all the information we are being exposed to?
Each time we return home to our countries, or when we read newspapers from back home, it seems that the path to business success here in China can be neatly packaged into three themes:
- Learn Chinese
- Build guanxi
- Understand the culture
However as we all know these clichés can inevitably turn out to be the most difficult, misunderstood and costliest approaches to success and profitability in China.
For example, the fact Chinese businesspeople from Hong Kong (speaking Cantonese), Taiwan (Mandarin/Hakka), Singapore (Mandarin/Fukienese) and Malaysia (Fukienese) struggle for success in China indicate more than language skills are needed.
Being based on the ground here in Ningbo you will know that the word guanxi is a widely misunderstand concept, not to be confused with back door games and buying favours. It takes a very long time to build true guanxi, which, as we know, can be stronger than any contract.
We also know that when it comes to learning the culture, what’s really important is getting a handle on the specific nuances, for example at business meetings when sometimes what is not being said can indicate the true meaning, while our Chinese counterparts can hear the same words but interpret things completely differently.
Yù zhī qiánfāng shì, qiě wèn guòláirén
“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back”
And in my opinion there is really no better way to make the right connections and access the right information here in China than through Networking Networking Networking.
The Ningbo Business Club
With such conviction, and seeing the considerable potential in China for the social networking website for business professionals that is LinkedIn, 5 years ago I set up a series of China city business networks including Ningbo Business Club (NBC), which now has close to 450 members.
Our Ningbo Business Club (宁波市商业协会) is devoted to bringing professionals and entrepreneurs here in Ningbo and surrounding areas quality (as opposed to quantity) connections, information and knowledge about how to use and leverage business networking to meet their professional objectives.
The fact that our origins are online enables us to not only reach out to members doing business on the ground here in Ningbo.
Ningbo Business Club (宁波市商业协会) also provides an excellent business resource platform for business people around the world to find out about all that is relevant to doing business here in Ningbo and Zhejiang, and ultimately to secure business deals along the way – which is why we are all here tonight!
In addition, akin to us foreign businesspeople here, many ‘Ningbo-born, bred, and raised businessmen and businesswomen’, or Ningbo’s Diaspora, are dispersed far and wide, living and working all over the globe. Ningbo Business Club provides an excellent platform for them to connect with their laojia 老家and keep abreast of what’s going on in Ningbo’s business scene.
I am the Managing Director of Accurate Group, a China market-making consultancy, operated out of Hangzhou and Ireland. Our clients outside china constantly ask us searching questions about all aspects of city and provincial market information the real-time answers to which lie within a network connection. I can also tell you that over half of Accurate Group’s client base came via connections made on Linkedin.com
Of course being on the ground here in Ningbo we all want an opportunity to meet our fellow members socially to learn “what was” and “what is” happening in Ningbo’s business scene.
Hence, this our second B2B event tonight, where moving forward, and given calibre of our two guest speakers tonight – Candy Tang, from Deloitte Shanghai (who will talk about China’s VAT Reform Pilot) and Tormod Ludvik Nilsen, from Wikborg Rein Shanghai (who will talk about the new duty-free zone in Shanghai), we anticipate that Ningbo Business Club will continue to prosper as the leading source of business interaction for businesspeople with an interest in Ningbo.
Now I would like to hand you over to our Chairman Helge Hareland, Chairman & Business Development Director at Point Services (Ningbo) Co Ltd. Thank you and enjoy the rest of your evening.
Join the Ningbo Business Club (NBC) (宁波市商业协会) at http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Ningbo-Business-Club-NBC-975447/about
Managing Director, Accurate Group Ireland China Market Makers (Route to Market, Export, Import, Partner Due Diligence)
China Office : Niall O’Reilly, Accurate Group China 1-3 Ying Hui Xing Zhou, Jiang Nan Shui Xiang Lian Sheng Road, Yu Hang District, Hangzhou. China 310023| O: +86 571 8709 1253
Ireland Office: Niall O’Reilly, Accurate Ireland 93 Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland| O: +353-1271-1830