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China – the Next Frontier of Opportunity

china-thumbIt was a difficult year for all businesses, including the exposition marketplace. Much has been written about the doom and gloom of our U.S. economy. We continue to read about ways to recover and strategies for survival. I believe the worst is behind us and the future is beginning with a soft glow.

As the year rushed to a close, I attended a presentation entitled the U.S. China Business Forum on Dec. 15. The session was organized by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Chicago Sister Cities International China Committee, the Economist Intelligence and the State of Illinois Office of Trade and Investment. It was attended by 200 international business leaders from the city as well as the state of Illinois and Chinese ambassadors and representatives. The meeting was opened by Gerry Roper, president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and joined by a highly qualified group of experts on U.S. and Chinese relations.

Guests included John Thompson, chief representative for the city of Chicago; Mary Roberts, state of Illinois Office of Trade and Investment; Bill Spence, Chicago Sister Cities China committee; Guowen Chen, Consulate General of People’s Republic of China, and Phil Corse, Kellogg Professor of Global Marketing.

All were there for a common good education and opportunities for China and the United States. This was a great way to end the year, and the event brought hope and encouragement for new growth for US business. It also provided a glowing light of optimism for the tradeshow industry.

Much has been discussed about Brazil, Russia, India and China, also known as the BRIC nations, and our need to get ready for business interaction. Of the four countries, China will surely offer the most and will be the next frontier for trade opportunities with the U.S.china2-thumb

These were some interesting facts I learned at the forum:
•    China is today what the U.S. was in the 1950’s.
•    China has many diverse regions and should not be viewed as a single market.
•    China has 1.3 billion people with a rapidly growing middle class of 10 million annually.
•    China colleges are graduating 5 million per year who seek jobs.
•    China has the largest market of Internet users in the world.
•    It is estimated China will be the superpower for world business in 10 years.
•    China will be the main market for luxury goods in 8 years, advertising in 3 years.
•    China is now the number one market in car sales.
•    The Asian expo market is expected to grow 34 percent in the next 2 years, where the U.S. and Europe stand at 9 percent.

As expected, much discussion at the forum was about intellectual property rights. This issue has been a major concern for world businesses that have had their good ideas cloned and sold at lower prices.

This trend and mentality is rapidly changing in China. There are 143,000 Chinese lawyers who are working to restrict such practices, but their results will not be instant. It is encouraged that businesses learn about Chinese patent provisions and work through a U.S. Trade Office for advice and council on rules and suggestions.

In the end, common sense tactics reserving what you reveal and finding a trusted partner will offer the best chance for success. The letter of the law is second to a good relationship.

Shawn He, from Meet China Biz, was the moderator of one of two panel discussions. He pointed out the 3 Cs of doing business with China including complexity of their structures, consistency and constant change.

There is no magic formula for success here. The risks may be greater than conventional international business, but rewards will be higher. Taking the time to gain knowledge and cultural understanding should be the first steps. Secondly, find trusted partners, both here in the U.S. as well as China.

In June, the International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services (IFES) will conduct its next convention in Shanghai, China June 21-26. Additional information can be found by visiting the Web site at www.ifesnet.com.


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