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Chairman's Remarks

Claus V. Hemmingsen addresses Danish-Chinese Business Forum's new strategic direction at the Annual General Meeting 2018

Dear members,

Not long ago, I heard an inspiring way of looking at things from one of our members: Some pessimists say that China is old news because of the falling growth rates. But that’s a wrong view. It is amazing how China has developed in the last few decades. Let me try to give you a few examples to illustrate this:

I could go on and on: The percentage of the growth rate is not the whole story. China is growing more than ever. 

2017 has been a year of transformation for DCBF. We have launched several new initiatives. The secretariat has as many physical meetings as possible with the members during the year and the conversations at these meetings have shaped our idea of how to progress on developing DCBF. 

It is a time consuming, but steady process. It started last year, and it will continue through 2018 and beyond. But with inspiration and input from you, we have started to move in a new direction, becoming the member focused organisation that we must be; one that acts and develops according to our members’ wishes and needs. 

In 2017, we had about 20 of what could be called “go-home-Member Meetings” – generalist events and topics, that were easy to register for and attend for a few hours. Such meetings, with ‘China as the common denominator’, are in fact offered by quite a few other providers across the country. 

After consulting with many of you, we have decided to scale down on this type of event. The basic rationale is that you are not generalists. You are experts at what you do, and our events should reflect that. 

We will of course still offer member meetings, but they will be high-level and specific, rather than general. A part of our new strategy, we have introduced four additional categories of initiatives in 2017. We have decided that this is the best way to use Danish-Chinese Business Forum’s limited resources in order for our members to get the best value out of the organisation. At the same time, we firmly believe that our new way better facilitates the development of business relations between China and Denmark.

Tom Behrens-Sørensen, Claus V. Hemmingsen, Ambassador Deng Ying, Morten Dyrholm, Hans Henrik Pontoppidan

After getting very positive feedback from you, we have established what we call our Working Groups. If a member has a particular challenge, and if other members share that challenge, a working group can be established between members who are not direct competitors. This element is important as the whole idea is that confidential information is shared. This requires trust. Working groups are time-limited in the sense that the working group’s purpose is to deliberate and solve the challenge in question and then be dissolved. 

In 2017, we have had working groups within the areas of alternative go-2-market strategies for companies offering turnkey projects; how to navigate the Chinese tax and customs system; how to manage cultural differences in the workplace, and many more, some of which are still in progress. 

Of course, all members are eligible to participate in working groups – and to suggest new ones. DCBF will then search for interested and relevant members, and put together a group. We look forward to working together on the projects that you find most important. 

The second new offering in 2017 is our government affairs project. We are planning for this to become one of our most important offerings in the years to come. 

If you work with China, you know that relationships are everything. Trust comes before business, as it should. Although few companies take advantage of this, many Danish cities, regions, and public organisations have strong official ties to Chinese counterparts, often at mayor's level or higher. 

Danish-Chinese Business Forum is working to leverage these ties more systematically to provide our members with better ways into the Chinese official system. 

This will be a gamechanger. Government delegations with business propositions, introductions to trusted companies, less bureaucratic access to certificates and permits, potential public sector contracts; all these are just the immediate benefits that are often bypassed today because public and private organisations only cooperate to a very limited extent. 

And more important than any immediate effect is the long-term benefit of knowing the right people in the right places is problems arise in the future. That is why stakeholder mapping and public affairs are so important. 

At A.P. Møller – Mærsk one of our values is "rettidig omhu" - constant care. The Government Affairs project is exactly that. Line Elk (please stand up, Line!) is the lead on this project. She is fluent in Chinese and looking forward to cooperating with you on this.

Thirdly, DCBF also offers courses. This year we have launched courses in a number of interesting areas. 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen and DCBF Chairman Claus V. Hemmingsen.

In two weeks, as an example, we have an event where Alibaba, China's biggest online sales platform, will teach our members in the home and design sector how to use their Business-to-Consumer services. This is great. A mere 2% of Denmark’s export value is through e-commerce, learning how to avoid mistakes is important and the opportunity for growth should be significant. 

We are also launching Business-to-Business courses starting in the second half of this year. We have received very positive feedback on our new offerings, and we are looking forward to hosting courses with all of you who have something to share with the other members.

Fourth and finally, we at DCBF realise that the world is changing, and the future is coming fast. It has also been a wish from our members that DCBF address new challenges before they become too critical. Therefore, DCBF has taken the lead on several longer-term special themes that will help our members stay competitive in the future. 

Actually, our theme today is one example: System export and integration is a broad challenge that affects many companies, not just those in the water sector. Another interesting project is the use of new technologies such as blockchain to verify the origins of food products: Consumers care a lot about food safety, especially after the negative events/issues that have shaken China recently. If companies can combine good storytelling with verification of food safety through technology, that will be a clear competitive advantage in the future. Other application areas include pharma and medtech. There are many other projects in the works as well, and we are always interested in hearing your input. 

As you can hear, DCBF is in a transformational process, which will continue beyond 2018. In all this, I call upon you, the members, to take an active part in our development. 

We encourage you not to wait until you see an exciting event in your e-mail inbox. Our secretariat are wonderfully capable people, but they are not mind readers. The real power of this network is that we represent the best of Danish-Chinese businesses, and our combined potential is phenomenal. 

For new members, we arrange kick-off meetings where we make plans for how to best use the network to add value, and I strongly encourage existing members to reach out and establish similar meetings, when appropriate. 

We want to understand your challenges, so we may assist you set up relevant working groups and find the right government connections. We want you to share your expertise in courses, so that our network can become the best possible, and enable us to compete also in the future.  

I believe that Danish-Chinese Business Forum has never been more important than it is now. The escalating trade war between USA and China is also something, if imposed, that will have consequences for Danish Companies. Danish companies who export from China to the US or import to the US from China can be affected.  Currently 50bn USD value of exports will be affected on each side of the Atlantic. DCBF is of the belief that no one will emerge as a winner in a trade war and that it is practically very difficult for a country to cut its surplus by e.g. US$100 bn. as suggested – if goods produced are competitive and demanded for. 

Together, I hope we can make DCBF an even more powerful instrument to enable information and best practice sharing for the benefit of all members. This year we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Denmark and China’s strategic partnership. The pandas are also arriving, as you know, which will be an important event in itself. 

With our new strategy – started last year and implemented this year and in the years to come – the Danish-Chinese Business Forum is now more than ever ready to face the future.