With the headline of ‘Re-imagining the UK-China Tech Relationship in the Post-COVID Era’, the roundtable was among the events part of the first UK-China Business Week organised by the China-Britain Business Council, aiming to explore opportunities to accelerate two-way trade and investment in the post-COVID world as well as the challenges associated with the new ‘normal’
The first session of the forum brought together Tony Clemson, the Innovation and Industry Deputy Director at DIT China, and Julian David, the CEO of techUK, who shared both institutions’ strategic views of the UK-China bridge, the reshaping of international relations in light of recent trade tensions and the leading sub-sectors that are set to lead the scene in cross-border tech investments. The second session was on how UK and Chinese tech companies have been dealing with business continuity planning during the pandemic, with valuable testimonies from Ant Financial’s Business Development Director in the UK, Eva Zhang, the UK Government Affairs Manager at Relx Group, Jeremy Lilley, and the China Business Development lead for What3Words, Max Cumming.
The third session saw Ting Zhang, CEO of CrayfishLtd and Co-Chair of the UK-China Tech Forum, moderating expert views from Hawksford’s Associate Director and the China Head of Sales and BD, Fabio Stella, based in Shanghai, joined for the occasion by King & Wood Mallesons Senior Partner Mark Schaub speaking from London. This final panel focused on navigating the pitfalls of what appears to be the new ‘normal’ for 2020-21. In a general overview of the main issues for UK tech companies in doing business in China, Fabio Stella highlighted the accessibility of the internet in general and cybersecurity in a totally new landscape where everybody was working away from offices. Meanwhile, Mark Schaub remained optimistic about the digital readiness of the tech sector in general in comparison with other industries that had suffered more.
When asked about the major concerns among UK tech companies in trying to access opportunities in China, Mark Schaub focused on IP protection for early-stage projects in the Chinese landscape for those at a later or advanced stage, when doing everything in-house or independently might hurt more than help. Hawksford’s Fabio Stella reported that UK tech firms might have ‘fear of missing out’ when looking at opportunities in the Chinese market, especially when taking their time to approach them with the right plan and resources and the need to have a local presence to attend tenders and incentive plans laid out by local government agencies.
After conclusions on how it’s unlikely that the Chinese gig economy will lay out new hiring methods for foreign-invested enterprises, Crayfish’s Ting Zhang asked both panelists to share their views on what awaits tech companies in both China and the UK in the next few months of 2020. Mark Schaub underlined the importance of political engagement between London and Beijing in light of the current evolving landscape in relations between the East and the West and due to the advantage the UK might have compared to actors with more complicated recent negotiation records, like the US and the EU. Fabio Stella closed the session with remarks on the future opportunities in sectors in which the UK holds a competitive advantage, from fintech innovation and services to its booming financial industry, thanks to the push to turn Shanghai into the main capital market hub in Asia by 2025.
Jointly hosted by techUK and the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), the UK-China Tech Forum is a platform to allow businesses to engage with key stakeholders in government and business in areas of UK-China tech trade, policy and market growth in both countries. The forum is for representatives of businesses, governments and other stakeholders interested in influencing or understanding the policy landscape impacting the technology sector, trade relations, and the market opportunities and challenges in China and the UK.
The forum brings members together to discuss issues and events that may impact their growth in the UK and China and provides an avenue for collective concerns to be aired and discussed with both governments. Moreover, it provides a platform for participants to explore emerging opportunities for growth and expand their business networks via topical engagements throughout the year.
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