Chinese economy’s present and future analyzed at China NOW Summit

LOS ANGELES — Executives and scholars from the People’s Republic of China and other countries discussed the importance of investing in the booming Chinese economy immediately at the first annual China NOW Summit on October 4, 2013. 500 people, including Chinese nationals who conduct business and study in California, participated in the day-long event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza which was organized by Shanghai-headquartered supply chain company Sunivo and co-sponso

Sunivo, which also has offices in Houston and Antwerp, assembled experts from a wide range of industries in order to include diverse perspectives on doing business in China. Though the spotlight was often placed on the growth of industries such as entertainment and IT, the environmental challenges that China currently faces as it continues to industrialize were not neglected.

Bill McDermott, Co-CEO of global IT company SAP, delivered a virtual keynote address where he noted that his team wants to grow in the Chinese market and reduce its carbon footprint.

“We are focused on more than the financial success that we have. We need to bring more women into management roles so that we can balance out the workforce and we need to reduce (our) greenhouse gas emissions,” said McDermott.

"We want to consume the same amount of energy in 2020 that we do now, while also growing the size of our company.”

According to Patrick Frater, a Hong Kong-based British journalist who has lived in Asia for nearly a decade, the migration of Chinese citizens from rural to urban areas has been a phenomenon that is too significant to overlook.

“Globalization, urbanization and digitization are the three factors that currently shape developments in China. With more than half of China’s population now living in cities, the urbanization (taking place) is very noticeable,” said Frater, who also reported on the summit and currently serves as Variety’s Asia Bureau Chief.

The Rise of the Global South

China’s success was placed in the context of the shift currently taking place in global finance—including the emerging economies of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)—thanks to City National Bank Senior Vice President Steven Bash. The international finance expert said that American companies are mostly missing out on the huge global market (“only six percent of U.S.-based SMEs export their products”) while China’s economy has on the other hand grown thanks to partnering with other countries that have had strong economic development recently.

“China is making an effort to do more trade with the Global South; it has done more transactions with Latin America, Africa and the Middle East recently. Only ten percent of global trade was South-South ten years ago, yet this is expected to be in the range of 30 to 35 percent in 2020 as these markets mature,” said Bash, who added that China’s Green Fence initiative has had a drastic impact on the global recycling industry and helped the country reduce the amount of environmental degradation occurring in its landfills.

University of Southern California Marshall School of Business Global Executive MBA Program Director Dr. Baizhu Chen said that his country’s decision to be more careful about the materials it recycles (as a result of the Green Fence) is part of a wider policy of selectiveness.

“Reducing pollution was one of the pillars of the ‘Beautiful China’ slogan that was mentioned by the new leadership that took over the government recently. Like here in the US, people in China are interested in learning about alternative fuels,” said Chen, who previously served as the Chinese Economist Society’s President.

“Economic growth has slowed down (from the high rate of eight percent annual GDP growth) because the Chinese  government wants to improve the quality of the growth. They want to make it a more sustainable and more ‘green’ type of growth; the growing middle class demands this.”

red by Asia Society Southern California and other partners

Cultural Considerations

China NOW Summit's notable moments during its final hours included renowned economist Ben Stein providing his distinct perspective on the shifting global market. The former speechwriter for U.S. President Richard Nixon said during his keynote speech that his White House experiences opened his eyes to the immense talent found in China.

"In the annals of human progress, nothing has ever stood out as much as what China has accomplished. 53 years ago, it had a per capita GDP of 63 dollars per person. Now it has a per capita GDP of roughly 100 times that. The capacity of the people of China—and Asia generally—is breathtaking," Stein, who added that he felt the United States will have to adjust to China eventually having the world's biggest economy within the next decade.

"President Nixon once told me he believed that a people as hungry, talented and disciplined as the Chinese couldn't be stopped once they had access to a free market system. They are succeeding now because they have it."

When asked about his predictions for China and the next decade, China NOW Summit master of ceremonies Hal Sparks—who speaks Mandarin Chinese—said he expected new technology would allow Americans to understand Chinese culture better.

"In ten years the cultural and linguistic barriers (that exist now) will be removed. For example, you can now learn Chinese on your iPhone. When I started studying Chinese ten years ago these kind of resources weren't available."

However, Metan Development Group CEO Larry Namer said that people in the Los Angeles area already have an advantage thanks to being exposed to Asian culture; a key first step for learning how to do business on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

"We have an advantage in LA because we are familiar with Asia thanks to the strong presence of Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures, among others," said Namer.

Now or Never

The summit's final panel, which was moderated by KNX Business Hour host Frank Mottek, featured insight on the urgency of exploring opportunities in the Chinese market before it becomes oversaturated. Sunivo International Business Development and Marketing Director Cory Hudson discussed his own experiences in China while advising the audience to join the rising Sino-American trade wave.

"I expect major changes soon as the two (Chinese and American) cultures start accepting each other. You're going to see business increase tenfold because, as you know, Chinese businesses often move quickly. Don’t wait until it’s too late; if you (American companies) don't take that step, your competition will," said Hudson, who also stressed that cultural intelligence is important for anyone who wants to thrive in China to have.

"If you're going to succeed in a new culture, you have to remove all of your emotional attachment to your product. You can do that by learning how to be open and adapt to a new way of conducting your business in a new environment."

Lawyer Darrell Miller, a partner at Los Angeles law firm Fox Rothschild LLP, said that the legal sector has grown in China in order to broker the increasing number of business contracts.

"Many firms are already opening branches in China, due to the expansion of industries like entertainment. 25,000 new movie theaters are expected to open throughout China in the next five years," said Miller.

"There is so much opportunity now. The more people tap into them, the more deal flow there will be."