China Focus: Foreign businesses chase opportunities as Chinese economy shifts gears


GUANGZHOU, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- General Electric (GE) has been quick to adapt to market trends since it started doing business in China over a century ago.

Once drawn to China's low manufacturing costs, the multinational conglomerate is now seeking opportunities brought by the country's industrial upgrades and its focus on innovation.

"GE will ramp up investments in Industrial Internet in China to foster a center for both hardware and talent," Rachel Duan, president and CEO of GE China, told reporters on the sidelines of the 2017 Fortune Global Forum in south China's Guangzhou.

Seeing the country's potential in innovation, GE is investing big to encourage engineers in China to pursue creative ideas in research and development as China will be the leading market for the company's core businesses, including clean energy, healthcare and aviation, according to Duan.

GE is not only bullish on the Chinese market, but also hopes operations in China can help it better serve the Asia-Pacific regions and beyond, Duan said.

The changing role of the Chinese market for foreign businesses like GE came as the world's second-largest economy undergoes profound transformations, with more focus on quality, efficiency and innovation.

In the nearly 40 years of China's reform and opening-up, global businesses have contributed to and benefited from the country's rise, and as the economy upgrades and evolves, foreign companies are keen to ride the new waves.

According to American Chamber of Commerce in China and European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, 69 percent of the surveyed U.S. businesses plan to expand investment in the country in 2017 while one third of EU companies see China among their top three choices to locate their research and development units.

For Duan, the most encouraging message from policymakers has been the commitment to maintaining policies on foreign investments and opening the door wider.

On Wednesday, Chinese leaders assured world business leaders in Guangzhou that the country will continue to open up and improve the business climate to create more opportunities and make a greater contribution.

"For what we have seen in the past few years, China is definitely going towards the direction of openness," said CEO of L'Oreal China Stephane Rinderknech.

The government's lowering of tariffs on imported consumer products, effective since Dec. 1, is a demonstration that China is turning words into actions.

"The tariff cut, along with reduction of consumption tax announced years earlier, will contribute to our efforts to bring in more brands and provide better services to meet the rising needs of the middle class consumers," Rinderknech said.

To cater to the needs of Chinese consumers, the French cosmetics manufacturer said it will continue to invest in research and development, production, talent, innovation and brands in the Chinese market.

For U.S. auto giant Ford, business opportunities lie in the government vision for a "Beautiful China," which entails a huge market for new energy vehicles (NEVs).

"China is taking the lead in the electric vehicle market as there is a real government push to clear the air," said Bill Ford, executive chairman at Ford Motor Company.

The U.S. car maker earlier announced a joint venture with China's Anhui Zotye Automobile to produce and sell electric cars in China, with plans to launch 15 electric car models in the country by 2025.

With strong government resolve, China's push for NEVs can be successful, Ford said.


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