Europe’s richest regions actively seek investment from China’s biggest banks

From left to right, H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi of the Chinese Mission to EU, Mr Markku Markkula, President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Luigi Gambardella, President of ChinaEU (© European Sting)

From left to right, H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi of the Chinese Mission to EU, Mr Markku Markkula, President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Luigi Gambardella, President of ChinaEU (© European Sting)

It is as of last Saturday that the European Commission imposed heavy tariffs on three big solar panel manufacturers of Chinese origin. The EU’s executive arm basically took out three Chinese companies from a pact with China that had been signed in 2013 and provided them with the privilege of low import tariffs to the Old Content. Canadian Solar, ET Solar and ReneSola Ltd allegedly violated the agreement by dumping their product prices into Europe, below the minimum price level set.

Apparently the EU seems now decisive to open again the trade file of the Chinese solar panels.“The findings of breaches of the undertaking and its impracticability established for Canadian Solar, ET Solar and ReneSola require the withdrawal of the acceptances of the undertaking for those three exporting producers”, the executive declared last Friday.

China-EU investment partnership

While the long standing EU trade matter of the Chinese solar panels seems to be back, a major development also took place at the end of last week in Brussels regarding China-EU business. “China, the Digital Economy and the EU investment plan” happened as a side-event of the 112th Plenary Session at the Committee of Regions (CoR). Organised by ChinaEU it brought together representatives from the Committee of Regions, the biggest Chinese banks and Chinese companies together with diplomats from the Chinese Mission to EU. The scope of the workshop was China-EU business and trade relations with an emphasis on the attraction of major Chinese investment in Europe.

Committee of Regions

The workshop of last Thursday welcomed some very prominent keynote speakers: Mr Markku Markkula, President of the Committee of the Regions and H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi, Head of the Chinese Mission to EU, together with high officials of the European Commission and European regions. President Markkula initiated the debate passing the clear message of the workshop: “we can bring the best European committees of regions to collaborate with Chinese ones”.  Labelling his organisation as “an innovative political web”, Mr Markkula appeared certain that this EU institution is able to bring new business opportunities regarding China-EU collaboration.

Interestingly the President of the Committee of the Regions said about the institutions that “it’s not any more an industrial cluster; it’s many clusters… EU cities and regions…city pairings…infrastructure China-EU…”. Referring to Juncker’s Investment Plan that amounts to 315 billion euros,  he declared: “we need to have a visible role in implementation of Juncker’s plan”. The EU official made it clear that Europe would rely also on possible foreign investors like China and he assured that the Committee of Regions can play a crucial role in this direction with open regional dialogue and workshops.

Chinese “Silicon Valley”

H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi participated in the workshop with an extensive opening keynote speech that set the grounds for China’s growth plan and its investment strategy in the EU. Mrs Yanyi opened her speech by stressing that currently “China is shifting from manufacturing to innovation”. Further, she mentioned that the Asian giant is constructing the “Chinese silicon valley” at the Chinese city of Zhongguancun. It is there where streets with restaurants and bookstores are being transformed to a hub for innovative start-ups. The Chinese Premier, Mr Li Kequang, who will be visiting Brussels at the end of June for the 17th China-EU Summit, is himself a keen promoter of innovation strategies for the country, Mrs Yanyi added.

“As heaven maintains bigger through movement, a gentleman should always…pursue excellence”, the Chinese Ambassador later shared a Chinese proverb, showing how China is undergoing continuous transformation and progress. Alibaba, Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo are certainly some of China’s best innovation examples that the Chinese diplomat also cited. However, innovation is not restricted to technology but Mrs Yanyi also spoke about the comprehensive agricultural innovation that is taking place in China.

Certainly, the world economy is undergoing profound adjustments, as Mrs Yanyi underlined, but China is committing to a medium-high level growth. To achieve that China will be implementing structural reforms and an intensive industrial structure upgrade, the Chinese diplomat reassured the audience of the workshop at the Committee of Regions last week.

2025 China Strategy

What is more, she did not omit to refer to the “2025 China Strategy” and she revealed to us that a major part of it is a substantial focus on smart technologies and green growth. Networking, digitalisation, information networks and smart energy are certainly focal points of China’s core strategy. In addition, Mrs Yanyi spoke about particularly the role of the expansion of Internet in the vast Asian country. Internet, cloud computing, Internet of Things as well as e-commerce and e-banking are certainly forming part of the huge ICT transformation in China today.

The Chinese Ambassador did not limit her speech on ICT, but soon talked about the growing start-up sentiment in the Asian country. In a country where 900 million SMEs strive for market share, China is currently passing a reform to manage its Youth distribution of the profits. To that the “national strategy on Intellectual property rights” surely contributes, as intellectual property is a company’s greatest asset. Moreover, according to Mrs Yanyi, China is currently advancing in sectors like urbanisation, research, technology and education possessing many hubs that attract world interest.

China-EU 40 Years

Moving to the core of the Chinese ambassador’s message, Mrs Yanyi soon without further due referred to the China-EU relations and particularly to the inauguration of the China-EU 40 years anniversary. This anniversary, she stated, signifies a win-win progress driving the two stakeholders to “new heights of excellence” and “new engines of growth”.

She later stated that one of the major areas that China-EU relations should invest on is ICT. Mrs Yanyi talked about the Digital Single Market, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the importance of innovation in the “One belt-one road” Chinese strategy. She also confirmed that the amplified ICT path that the two economic powers follow create new job opportunities and promote a global inclusion via access to the Internet.

The Ambassador interestingly talked about the collaboration between Europe and China in ICT and made it clear that China is willing to become a major ICT investor in Europe. China and EU high tech companies are today sweeping digitisation of the global economy, she added. The advancement of the China-EU digital cooperation is in the interest of both economies.

17th China-EU Summit

Mrs Yanyi closed her speech announcing the profound importance of the 17th China-EU Summit that will take place at the end of June in Brussels between the two major trade players. It will be a “converging point”, as Mrs Yanyi characterised it, for the China-EU economic dialogue. Aiming at raising awareness about the “One belt one road” Chinese strategy, the Chinese diplomat welcomed a “public-private collaboration”, focusing on many aspects of ICT like innovation, 5G, standards, Internet, Cybersecurity and Big data. This would be a way to “expand China-EU urbanisation collaboration”.

However, probably referring to examples like the EU antidumping measures against Chinese solar panels, the Ambassador of the Chinese Mission to EU prompted the European to “remain vigilant against protection”.

Chinese investment in Europe

The workshop last Thursday at the Committee of Regions concluded with a presence from prominent representatives of China’s biggest banks like Bank of China, ICBC, Agriculture Bank of China and China Construction Bank. An intense dialogue opened with top public officials from wealthy European regions, to refer to projects where Chinese investors are welcome.

The President of ChinaEU, Luigi Gambardella, mentioned that his organisation would try to become the bridge between Chinese investors and European regions, examining projects case by case. Finally Mr Jorgen Gren, Member of the Cabinet of the Commission’s Vice President Ansip, opened a “digital discussion” about the collaboration of the EU with the major contribution by China’s ICT champions like Huawei and ZTE.

It remains to be seen, thus, how China-EU business relations will involve based on a fruitful win-win collaboration for the two economies, in order to pursue a fruitful sustainable growth and stability.

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