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President Higgins plants the legendary city of Hangzhou on Ireland’s map of China

Why President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit includes the dynamic metropolis of Hangzhou.

The most beautiful city in China

In the 13th century Marco Polo is said to have described Hangzhou, which is situated in east China along the Qiantang River, as “the city of heaven, the most magnificent in the world”.

While many of the world’s metropolises can also be portrayed as magnificent, Hangzhou, the largest city in Zhejiang province, and one of China’s seven ancient capitals, is beyond doubt one of China’s most eye-catching and affluent cities.

With a GDP per capita of over €12,200 and a population of 8.8 million people, Hangzhou is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

One of the most picturesque wonders of China, the West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the tranquil West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. It comprises numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands.

Grand canal, West Lake Cultural Square, Hangzhou

Grand Canal, West Lake Cultural Square, Hangzhou

Equally breath-taking is the Grand Canal, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June this year. Dating back to the 6th century and stretching 1,776 kilometres (1,104 miles) from the southern terminus of Hangzhou north to Beijing, the Grand Canal is the oldest and longest man-made waterway in the world, at least 10 times the length of the Suez Canal and 23 times that of the Panama Canal.

Another symbol of the city is the sight of one of China’s most spectacular natural phenomena, the roaring Qiantang River tidal bore, or Silver Dragon, the world’s largest tidal bore that rising to a height of as much 12 metres (40 feet) rolls upstream every September.

That Hangzhou is also the capital of China’s national drink, tea – its celebrated West Lake LongJing, or “Dragon Well”, green tea, consistently ranking first among China Top 10 leading teas – and home to one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, the stunning Lingyin Temple with a history stretching back 1,600 years, it is no wonder that Hangzhou’s tourism industry caters for upwards of 93.16 million visitors a year.

Beauty and business go hand in hand

On Friday 12th December, on his first state visit to China as a guest of President Xi Jinping, President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland will take a 45 minutes journey on the Shanghai–Hangzhou High-Speed Railway aboard the ‘Harmony’ train. Not only symbolic of China’s rapid technological advancement – the 202 kilometres (126 miles) long line, designed for commercial train service at 350 km/h (217 mph) was built in 20 months – the trip is an explicit induction to the vibrant city of Hangzhou with its strong culture of innovation.

The city has strong economic growth of 8%, a business-friendly and farsighted government, an abundance of research and development facilities, and proximity to business professionals throughout the Yangtze River Delta, all of which have contributed to Hangzhou’s recognition as both the capital of China’s online industry, and a celebrated hub of entrepreneurship.

A study published last August by Spear’s (in association with leading wealth consultancy company WealthInsight source: http://www.spearswms.com/news/new-data-reveals-where-the-worlds-billionaires-are-born-4345872#.VA0nMEi5_Mlhttp:// ) ranks Hangzhou 15th of the top 25 global cities “where billionaires are born”, the city being home to six billionaires, all of whom are self-made.

West Lake Sunset, Hangzhou

West Lake Sunset, Hangzhou

Nobody typifies the new breed of Chinese entrepreneurship in a global era more than former Hangzhou-born school teacher Jack Ma, now China’s wealthiest man, who as the Founder and Executive Chairman of Hangzhou-based E-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group – arguably the world’s largest online and mobile company – leads a group of companies that reached a market value of €188 billion in September 2014. More than at any other of his meetings with China’s political elite, it is likely that at his meeting with Mr. Ma, President Higgins, who will be accompanied by Ireland’s Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, will come to truly appreciate the intrepid, confident, innovative consumerist spirit that makes China an essential market for Irish goods and services exports.

China’s ‘Silicon Valley’, Hangzhou is the stronghold from where Mr. Ma and his colleagues direct the online revolution that is turning China’s retail industry on its head: On the 11th November 2014 Alibaba’s Tmall business-to-consumer platform, an increasingly important platform for foreign retailers to penetrate China, ‘Singles Day’ online retail event achieved sales of around €7.6 billion. They are also plotting Alibaba’s expansion to become a truly global company. Investments in Europe and the USA beckon.

Twenty-seven years ago, when Zong Qinghou, a native of Zhejiang province, was 42, he made his living selling soft drinks and ice cream to schoolchildren in Hangzhou. Today, according to Forbes, Mr. Zong, as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hangzhou Wahaha, China’s leading beverage company that employs over 60,000 people and has over 64 manufacturing facilities, or  “China’s drinks king”, is reputed to have a personal fortune of €9 billion making him the sixth wealthiest person in China.

Consistently topping the World Bank’s list of Chinese cities with the best investment climate, and rated by Forbes as one of the top 10 cities on the mainland for doing business, at the end of 2013 there were more than 12,000 foreign direct investment companies operating in Hangzhou while foreign investment surpassed €4.2 billion. Moreover, the city’s total foreign trade volume was almost €50 billion.

80,000 free bicycles, 2,000 electric public buses and 500 electric taxis

Maintaining Hangzhou’s advantage as a great place to do business in constantly requires improving the living environment and quality of life of its residents and visitors, an obligation that does not come without its challenges.

No challenge is more taxing then tackling the ecological problems associated with administering China’s 10th most populated city, and one of the most visited tourist cities in the world, not to mention the country’s deteriorating air quality and ecological environment.

For instance, with well over two million private cars on its roads, making it the second worst traffic congested of any major city in China, Hangzhou’s Leadership has taken a serious attitude on combating the issues by adopting zero-emissions public transportation, namely electric buses and taxis. Last June, in one of the world’s largest all-electric fleets ever ordered, Hangzhou purchased 2,000 long-range, battery-electric transit buses and 1,000 long-range, pure-electric taxi cars from BYD, the Chinese automaker backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., whose buses have already hit the streets of London and California.

Anybody who believes that bike-sharing is a European transportation phenomenon should set foot in Hangzhou. Recently rated by USA Today as the world’s best public bicycle sharing system, comprising 80,000 free bicycles leased up to 400,000 times a day, Hangzhou Public Bicycle, which was only launched in 2008, is also likely the most extensively utilised bike-sharing scheme, anywhere.

Another ground-breaking project that is a testimony to the vibrancy of Hangzhou’s advancement is its subway system which opened in 2012, following five years of construction. By 2020, the city plans to five subway lines operating at a total length of 200 kilometres (124 miles).

Hangzhou, Silk Capital of China

Hangzhou, Silk Capital of China

Ireland and Hangzhou

For Irish exporters struggling to seize upon the lucrative sales opportunities to be had in what is now arguably the world’s largest economy, Hangzhou provides an ideal foretaste of the extraordinary growth in the purchasing power of China’s increasingly affluent middle classes.

The average price of a new home in Hangzhou is about €2,700 per square metre; with daily flights operated by KLM from Hangzhou to Amsterdam, Paris and London are high on the list of preferred destinations for Hangzhou’s high spending tourists; while Rolls Royce, Maserati, Aston Martin, and Gucci showrooms all report brisk business, doubtless boosted by the scores of millionaires recently created by Alibaba’s September IPO.

As individual prosperity rises, people are becoming increasingly conscious about their health and quality of life. For instance, local demand for imported high-quality food and beverages such as dairy and nutritional food products present significant opportunities for Irish suppliers, as do local government –backed projects actively encouraging fuel efficiency, cleaner water, and better sanitation. There are also considerable opportunities in Hangzhou for services-related exports in the tourism and education sectors. With regard to the latter, 36 tertiary colleges and universities with close to 450,000 students are located in Hangzhou, including China’s second best university, Zhejiang University, one of China’s leading medical schools, Zhejiang Medical University, and the renowned China Academy of Arts, the most influential fine arts academy in China.

The challenges for any Irish exporter entering what is still a relatively immature market are apparent. China’s rapid growth since its 1978 opening to the world has not meant greater transparency. Given that the available market information is generally unreliable or misleading, making sound business decisions can be difficult, while a simple misunderstanding of local business practices can harm efforts to develop solid business relationships. As such there is an inherent need for proximity to the customer base for Irish exporters.

The Irish Exporters Association and Accurate Group, an Ireland China market making consultancy have been on the ground in Hangzhou for close to seven years building strong relationships with key business and Hangzhou government decision-makers. Consequently, Hangzhou’s Leadership, including its Party Secretary and Mayor, has visited Ireland on a regular basis.

President Michael D Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to this fabled city not only is a clear recognition of Hangzhou’s long and illustrious history, it is also a statement acknowledging the potential for extending the hand of trade and friendship between Ireland and Hangzhou, a new gateway for Irish business into China.

For more information about President Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to China click on the following YouTube video-clip:

– By Niall O’Reilly

Source: http://accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=bpe1QYxRz6M=

Niall O’Reilly, Managing Director of Accurate Group, China Market Makers, and Director for China, Irish Exporters Association, has been based in Hangzhou since 2007.

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Market Makers

Website: For more ‘Accurate China Insights’ click  http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.php

Twitter: @AccurateChina – China: The Ireland Angle

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Group, Dublin – O: +353-1 271-1830

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Exports showcase offers ‘rare’ opportunity for Irish products in growing China market

Niall O’Reilly, who organised the Hangzhou leg of the Irish Exporters’ Association trip to China which we reported on last month, says an offer by Wahaha chief Zong Qinghou to attend the company’s annual internal distributor exhibition marks a “very rare China market opportunity not to be missed”.

China’s richest man, with almost €9 billion in personal assets, Zong is trying to diversify his company, the country’s biggest domestic beverage group, by opening 18 self-run shopping malls, 35 franchising malls and a further 300 franchising stores by the end of 2015.

Wahaha has a nationwide distribution network of about 10,000 distributors, over 100,000 wholesaler and three million sales terminals. It employs more than 60,000 people, has 150 subsidiary companies and 60 manufacturing bases scattered throughout China.

At the meeting with the Irish Exporters Association, Zong, invited Irish producers of milk powder, UHT milk, goat milk powder, tea, fruit drink concentrates, sweets, Irish whiskies and spirits, and, curiously, Irish tweed and knitwear products to attend the Wahaha European Premium Commodities Exhibition in Hangzhou from July 25th to July 28th.

While noting the short time to the exhibition, Zong thought the exhibition would be a great opportunity to showcase Irish products to Wahaha’s key distributors.

Exports showcase offers ‘rare’ opportunity for Irish products in growing China market - Zong Qing Hou Chairman Hangzhou Wahaha and Niall O'Reilly Managing Director Accurate Group China Business Advisers

China’s wealthiest man, Zong Qing Hou Chairman Hangzhou Wahaha – China’s most admired company – welcomes Niall O’Reilly Managing Director Accurate Group China Business Advisers to Wahaha’s HQ in Hangzhou

“This is a man whose primary interest in working with foreign companies is to bring into China products which Chinese companies are poor at making. If he likes a product, his nod is as good as a wink to Wahaha’s distribution network,” said O’Reilly, head of the Accurate Group.

China is set to become Ireland’s fourth largest export market in the next decade, and the retail sector offers huge market potential for Irish foodbeverage and clothing companies. Over 300 million people in China now have disposable income to purchase on non-essential goods that was not possible even back in the 1990s, while Chinese government policies aim to double household incomes by 2020.

Sources / Copyright: Clifford Coonan / Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/exports-showcase-offers-rare-opportunity-in-growing-market-1.1456741

http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=i84nUxS5ONA=

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Product & Business Development (ExportImport, Partner Due Diligence) Consultancy

Website: http://www.accuratelimited.com

Twitter: @AccurateChina

China Office : Niall O’ReillyAccurate China 1-3 Ying Hui Xing Zhou, Jiang Nan Shui Xiang Lian Sheng Road, Yuhang District, Hangzhou. China 310023| O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Niall O’ReillyAccurate Ireland 93 Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland| O: +353-1271-1830

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Irish Exporters Association trade mission to ‘paradise’ meets China’s richest man

Irish Times, Asia Briefing, 2nd July, 2013

“And so to the prosperous east of China, to the cities of Suzhou and Hangzhou, where the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) organised a trade mission that included a meeting with mainland China’s richest man: Zong Qinghou.

There is a Chinese proverb: “In heaven there is paradise, on earth Suzhou and Hangzhou.”

As well as being pleasant cities, they are important business locations, and they fit right in with the current thinking on how to exploit the China market best. That involves focusing on second-tier cities that have large populations.

Hangzhou has 9.5 million inhabitants, while Suzhou has 12 million, which is why the IEA’s Asia Trade Forum chose them for its business visit.

“This is all about taking a phased approach to Asia, and getting to know Asia better,” said Hugh Kelly, the chairman of the IEA’s Asia Trade Forum.

“We wanted to get people out here and get them over the hump of making the trip. We wanted to try to get people to experience China and better inform them if it’s the market for them.”

The IEA’s director for China, Niall O’Reilly, is a long-time Hangzhou resident and he orchestrated the coup of arranging a meeting with Mr Zong.

He is estimated to have a personal wealth of 82 billion yuan (€10.23 billion) and is the chairman of the privately held Wahaha group, China’s top homegrown beverage firm, producing bottled water, tea and other drinks, which had pre-tax profits of €1.23 billion last year.

A chain-smoking member of China’s annual parliament, the National People’s Congress, Mr Zong is famously frugal, spending just $20 (€15) a day on himself. He is the third-richest man in Asia and 23rd richest in the world.

His knowledge of Ireland was extremely limited, something the delegates were keen to remedy, but he seemed receptive to the possibilities offered by Ireland – the visit was supposed to be 20 minutes’ long but went on for one and a half hours.

Wahaha has about 60 factories in 29 provinces, and it also makes baby formula and children’s clothes.

The Wahaha group has considerable geographical spread in China and Mr Zong said that he can get a new product into two million shops inside of a week.

“Mr Zong was very interested in what Ireland had to offer,” said Mr Kelly.

Zong Qinghou, Chairman of Hangzhou Wahaha

Zong Qinghou, Chairman of Hangzhou Wahaha

During the visit, Mr Zong invited the IEA to attend a Wahaha event in three weeks’ time, which will be an opportunity to pitch products to the 20 shopping malls owned by Wahaha.

Among the companies taking part on the delegation was Áine Handmade Chocolates. Owner and chocolatier Anne Rudden was impressed by the scale of operations at Wahaha.

“I was here on this trip to see if there were opportunities, so I got more than I thought out of it. Meeting with Mr Zong was the best. And choosing Hangzhou seems to have been a good idea,” said Ms Rudden.

Mr Zong also tried Darling Cocktails’ ready-to-serve cocktail.

Mr Kelly said that while companies were happy to go to the US six times a year, companies found the trip to Asia more daunting and had less of a presence as a result.“Everyone is going home with a great impression. There are a lot of layers here and we’ve achieved more than we expected on this trip. You have to come here to see the scale on which they plan,” said Mr Kelly, the chief executive of Associated Marketing.

Unlike other Government trade missions, the IEA trade delegation had the benefit of not having to meet political obligations.

Mr Kelly said the choice of Hangzhou and Suzhou as the main venues for the trip was part of a plan to match Irish companies with their counterparts in smaller cities.

“Many Irish companies are small and medium-sized companies and are very small in China. If you pair off with someone too big you will fade,” said Mr Kelly.

The delegation also visited the Hangzhou Economic Development Authority and was received by the local government.

Source / Copyright: Clifford Coonan / Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/world/asia-briefing-irish-trade-mission-to-paradise-meets-richest-man-1.1449280 . Accurate Group China Business Blog  http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=VDJvvLcn5vQ=

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Product & Business Development (ExportImport, Partner Due Diligence) Consultancy

Website: http://www.accuratelimited.com

Twitter: @AccurateChina

China Office : Niall O’ReillyAccurate 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’ReillyAccurate Ireland 93 Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland| O: +353-1271-1830

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