Committee Spotlight: China Business - Our Golden Gateway

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Committee chairs Ben Simpfendorfer and John Siu want to help members capitalize on the expanding ocean of opportunity as Beijing ramps up its Greater Bay Area and Belt & Road initiatives


Ben Simpfendorfer’s day job is heading up Silk Road Associates, a strategic advisory firm providing data-driven insights to help clients hone their competitive edge in Asia. As new co-chairman of the China Business committee this year, this expertise will surely help deliver on the group’s agenda for the year ahead.

“Our goal is to educate members on business opportunities in the Greater Bay Area,” says Simpfendorfer, co-chair alongside Cushman & Wakefield Managing Director John Siu. “We want to identify where the real commercial opportunities are in China and what they mean for businesses in Hong Kong.”  

For a hint of what 2018 promises, a look back over the previous 12 months is a good place to start. Last year was a busy one for business in China, with commercial activity driven by two central government initiatives: One Belt, One Road – now rebranded as Belt & Road Initiative – and the Greater Bay Area.

As MD at global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, Siu has been keeping a close eye on the development of both initiatives and their implications for his industry. The verdict? Last year’s momentum will only accelerate in 2018.  

“OBOR, which aims to create an expansive network of roads, railways and ports connecting Asia with Africa and Europe is one of the largest economic spending plans the world has seen. It is creating enormous opportunities in the areas of infrastructure, real estate, and finance,” Siu says.

Robotics and retail

“We expect that major domestic tech giants such as Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu will also make moves to increasingly focus on AI development in 2018,” says Siu.

More opportunities await in China’s retail sector, as e-commerce giants expand in Online-to-Offline – known as O2O and which describes the growing global trend toward mixing digital and physical strategies. Consumers might order products online but pick them up at a bricks and mortar store; or they might visit a shop to try on an outfit or fiddle with a gadget, before ordering online.

“Alibaba has been making significant strides in this space with its Hema supermarkets in select cities and the opening of its first shopping mall in 2017,” says Siu. JD.com announced ambitious plans to open one million convenience stores across China in the next five years, he adds.

“By using AmCham’s China Business committee as a platform, Hong Kong businesses are in a good position to capitalize on such opportunities in China,” says Simpfendorfer.

After revealing plans to ramp up engagement with the Chamber’s counterparts in southern China, and a focus on how Hong Kong can better participate in China’s development, he urged members to raise their concerns and suggestions to the committee at any time.

“We want to hear what the Hong Kong community has to say.”