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Date: 03/02/2017

Businesses in the Midlands are being urged to mark the Chinese New Year by seizing growing export opportunities with the world’s second largest economy.

January 28, 2017, marks the start of the Year of the Rooster – and it’s the ideal time to make a new year’s resolution to spread your export wings, says James Westwood, adviser at the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) in the West Midlands.
Working closely with the Department for International Trade (DIT) West Midlands, James says that the last 12 months have seen a steady flow of new businesses interested in exporting their goods, services, technology or brand name to China.
In 2015, the West Midlands exported £2.3 billion to China, the bulk of which was in the machinery and transport equipment sector.
James said: “As the Chinese economy is transitioning into a more consumer goods and services-oriented economy, the offerings of many UK companies are very well suited to fill those niches. Now is the best time to deal with China as the UK is very strong in services and offers high quality but affordable consumer goods.
“China remains the second largest economy in the world and is the largest single-country market in the world. Its economy continues to grow and the site shows just how much demand there is for British products and services, from beauty products and food to technology and engineering opportunities.”
James has drawn up some advice for first-time and experienced exporters that want to sell into China in the Year of the Rooster:
  1. Look Beyond Beijing: China’s first tier cities are Beijing (North), Shanghai (East), Guangzhou and Shenzhen (both South). While they are the natural places to start when breaking into China, there are more than 300 cities – more than 100 of which have over one million residents. By targeting a second or third tier city, companies have the opportunity to test the market.
  2. Use Chinese ambassadors: Many businesses have a limited budget when it comes to research, so approach the Chinese foreign student population in the West Midlands to gather opinions on how your brand, product or service would fare in their home market. Another idea is to recruit Chinese students as interns.
  3. E-commerce first:  Setting up an e-shop – using sites such as Alibaba or Tmall Global – before physically setting up shop is a good way of testing the water in China.
  4. Social media:  China has its own social media platforms and these are worth using as part of any marketing strategy. WeChat is one of the most popular apps there.
  5. The right people for the job: Select the right person to head up operations – that means an experienced and/or senior executive based in the UK or China.
  6. Protect your business interests: Businesses are often afraid that their intellectual property would be at risk if they traded with China. However, you can legally protect those parts of the business that are at risk. Decide which parts of your offering, if copied, will hurt your business interests and take robust action to legally protect those aspects – China’s IP laws broadly reflect those of the UK and other international markets and infringements can be successfully pursued through courts.
DIT West Midlands is holding a free e-commerce China clinic next month when the DIT Export Hub comes to iCentrum at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, Holt Street, Birmingham.
Hosted by DIT, Barclays and the Royal Mail Group, the clinic will explore how to do business in China and the support and tools that are available. It will cover the Chinese e-commerce market and the different channels that are available; an overview of the Royal Mail store on Tmall; a practical how-to guide on reaching Chinese e-shoppers through Royal Mail Tmall store; and how to overcome the challenges of doing business in China. For details of the event on Monday, 6 February, visit
Exporting is GREAT is a government initiative to consolidate the export support available to companies. Businesses with ambitions to export are encouraged to visit DIT’s, a single digital destination for trade and investment, bringing together and connecting UK businesses, international buyers and international investors.
Businesses wanting to take steps towards entering the China market should also read the China Business Handbook - a free resource covering many aspects pertaining to trading with Chinese firms.