How will Boris tackle China?

Boris Johnson in a rugby tackle

This post originally appeared on the Join in China website.

Last week proved an eventful one that left some across the nation feeling…a little hot under the collar.

Our national temperature record was broken again, topping 38 degrees in tech hotbed Cambridge (see what we did there). But more importantly, Britain saw a new leader appointed – a virtual unknown by the name of Boris Johnson.

Joking aside (though a sense of humour is invaluable in these prickly times), our new government promises to usher in real, and some might say divisive, change in the country.

Among the cabinet changes last week was Liz Truss replacing Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary, who will be spearheading the UK’s trade efforts around the world. Jeremy Hunt, who infamously slipped up on an official visit to China, and who recently was described as having a “cold war mentality”, was cast aside in favour of Dominic Raab as Foreign Secretary. As we write this, Raab is in Asia on his first overseas trip, looking to increase ties with 10 countries.

A global Britain

But where does emerging superpower China fit into our global Britain ambitions? These are also sensitive times in UK-China relations, from Huawei to Hong Kong. Where do we go from here?

It might be to soon to tell, and while this isn’t the place for in-depth foreign relations or trade analysis, it’s clear that our new Prime Minister has spoken in very positive terms about China in the not too distant past.

In a January 2018 interview (keep in mind that much has happened since) with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, the then Foreign Secretary described how he was “very enthusiastic” about the Belt & Road Initiative and furthermore very “pro-China”. He added that the UK was the first G7 country to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank led by China (whose vice-president in Beijing is also a Brit – Sir Danny Alexander).

Belt and Road Initiative

While the Belt and Road Initiative is a subject of debate – the UK diplomatically describes itself as a “natural partner” – the trillion-dollar infrastructure project connecting east and west promises exciting commercial opportunities for specialists in financial services (fintech and green finance), design, consulting and construction. These are all things that we’re very good at in the UK.

So if you’re a project manager or construction consultancy, you may have the expertise required to make the new Silk Road initiative a success and share in the economic benefits.

Meaty rewards

If you’re not in finance or construction, there are still new opportunities to pursue. For example, beef exports to China have been approved, marking the end of a 20-year ban since the BSE crisis. This could be worth £230 million for British business in the next five years.

The approval of UK pork plants is also being fast-tracked (five have been approved already) – meaning the possibility of more pork shipments before the end of the year.

Perhaps at this point we should also highlight the enormous success in China of Peppa Pig – a pork export of a different variety – demonstrating the importance and impact of our creative industries. Peppa Pig joins a long list of successful cultural exports that include Mr Bean and Downton Abbey.

How Join in China can help

Of course, we are excited by the prospect of further collaborations between the UK and China, and by the opportunity presented to small businesses. We also recognise that it can be a bumpy ride for the uninitiated! This is why we are here to help.

Since 2012, we’ve acted as a knowledgeable, trusted partner to UK businesses wanted to make the most of the Chinese market. We’ll help you expand into China with confidence, from business or product sourcing to IP registration, culture training, digital marketing, and more.

Take the business advisory firm James Cowper Kreston (JCK), for instance, who we are assisting with Chinese social media management and business development. We provided on the ground support in China to JCK, who were attended a conference in Shenzhen, and with them launched a UK Innovation Centre, seen by the Chinese provincial government as a hub for investors.

These are early days in the new Boris Johnson era, and we will continue to do our best to keep you informed on emerging opportunities and the state of play between Britain and China. Feel free to contact us at any time, however, with comments or queries!

Make a date for Singles’ Day

This post originally appeared on the Join in China website.

Singles’ Day is coming, and no it’s not an anniversary invented by a PR flack to drum up interest in a dating app. It has everything to do with spending. Spending on a staggering scale. Occurring every year on 11 November, the event is a shopping bonanza bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday put together.

Known as “Double 11” in China, Singles’ Day was started in China in 2009 by online retail giant Alibaba, and was based on nationwide celebrations of singledom, hence 11.11 (ones/singles coming together) – and what better remedy than to spend cheaply and wildly on oneself?

In the few years since, the one-day shopping extravaganza has grown considerably. Last year, consumers on Alibaba spent a staggering 168.3 billion yuan (£18.5 billion) while rival reported sales of 127.1 billion yuan (£14 billion). Altogether that’s a whopping £32.5 billion – equivalent to two Crossrails, or a third of Jeff Bezos.

Singles’ Day is not just a China event. Big British brands participating in recent years have included Dyson, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and an awkward-looking David Beckham. Last year, for example, Waitrose saw strong Chinese consumer interest in its mueslis and squeezable honey – which isn’t bad if you consider the struggles faced by Weetabix.

You too can get involved (but keep in mind, amidst the excitement, that Singles’ Day coincides with Armistice Day – a date with more sober connotations).

Fortunately, you don’t need to open an Asia presence. Here are three DIY cross-border options:

  1. Open a Tmall Global storefront. Tmall is a Chinese-language website for B2C online retail operated by Alibaba that features more than 70,000 international and Chinese brands. You will need to open an Alipay account to receive payment, as well as complete paperwork (this can be a fiddle, so speak to us if you need help).
  2. Set yourselves up through the Royal Mail Tmall Store, which has some 400 million registered users. Royal Mail will buy your products at an agreed price which covers logistics, duties, commission fees, translations and product listings. The one-off registration fee is £2,500.
  3. Launch a store on JD Worldwide,’s platform that is open to brands outside of China. While again there is paperwork involved (speak to us about how to navigate this), setting up a presence will undoubtedly become smoother for UK retailers in the years ahead. In 2018, pledged its support to British businesses, announcing it will commit to selling £2 billion of goods.

If you’re looking for a tailored solution for your business do talk to us it’s too late for this year but we can make a date for next Singles Day.