China is one of the great economic success stories of the past 30 years. It has grown to be the world’s largest economy and is an expanding market for UK businesses. Benjamin Coren discovers how firms can take advantage of this market


Incredible as it is to believe, China now has over 160 cities with more than a million inhabitants. The total population is around 1.404 billion – no wonder it is a target for ambitious UK businesses.

The country is made up of over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao. China is not one single market – with such a vast country it is important to understand the regional, economic and cultural differences when developing a business strategy. This year, China’s growth is predicted at 6.6% and today accounts for one-third of global growth, according to the International Monetary Fund.

However, executives need to be mindful of the risks associated with business and meetings activity in China. Risks such as bribery, fraudulent activities and third-party money laundering exist, and it is worth being mindful that large parts of the economy are still closed to full foreign participation. Competition can be strong from state-owned enterprises and there is a complex business culture in place. The language barrier can be problematic too, and there is a need for patience to build up trust and networks.

But with a fast-growing consumer market and a monetary policy that is ensuring growth, China is a market well worth breaking into. Indeed, the UK's Department for International Trade says China will become the world’s largest luxury goods market by 2020.

The US and China tariff trade war is not to be ignored by UK businesses. In response to US duties imposed on Chinese imports, China has responded with new tariffs on $60billion of American goods. The escalating trade war may well have an effect on the rest of the world.

For example, a Bank of England forecast has estimated that a full- blown trade war could hit global GDP by 2.5%, with the UK economy suffering a 2% downturn.

Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, says: “What’s clear is that China’s success is part of the wider story of the rebalancing of the global economy with nations across Asia and the Far East recording levels of growth above traditional advanced economies of the Western world.

“For Britain, our ambition is to become the world’s leading champion of free trade, taking the opportunity provided by our exit from the European Union to develop an explicitly pro-trade independent policy framework.”

Fox continues: “China is spending $1trillion dollars on improvements to trading infrastructure as part of the ‘Belt and Road’ programme. The initiative is at the heart of China’s drive to continue its rapid development and involves investment in infrastructure projects throughout Asia and central and eastern Europe.

“New airports, railways and ports will strengthen international links and create vast new opportunities for trade and investment.”

Top exports to China include electrical machinery and equipment, mineral fuels and oils, machinery and mechanical appliances, medical, optical, photographic and precision equipment, ores, vehicles, plastics, oil seeds, grains and copper.


British Airways flies daily from Heathrow. China Airlines goes twice daily from Heathrow, upped to three times on Monday and Friday. From Edinburgh, Hainan Airlines operates a twice- weekly service on Thursday and Sunday. From Manchester, Hainan Airlines flies four times weekly on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Hainan Airlines operates a service three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Heathrow.

China Airlines flies three times a week from London Gatwick on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

Tianjin Airlines flies twice a week from Gatwick on Wednesday and Saturday. The carrier has also launched a thrice-weekly service from Heathrow.

China Southern Airlines operates a daily service from Heathrow.

Cathay Pacific flies from Heathrow five times a day. It also has daily services from Gatwick and Manchester. British Airways flies from Heathrow twice-daily, while Virgin Atlantic operates a daily service from the same airport.

Beijing Capital Airlines flies from London Heathrow twice weekly on Monday and Friday.

China Southern operates a twice-weekly service from Heathrow on Thursday and Sunday.

British Airways flies from Heathrow daily, operating the service twice-daily on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Virgin Atlantic flies from Heathrow daily and China Eastern Airlines also operates a daily service from Heathrow. As of December 7, China Eastern Airlines will operate a service from Gatwick three times a week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Tianjin Airlines flies twice weekly from Heathrow on Monday and Friday and goes twice-weekly from Gatwick on Wednesday and Saturday.

China Southern operates a service three times a week from London Heathrow to Wuhan on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Tianjin Airlines flies from Heathrow twice weekly on Monday and Friday.

One-stop alternatives

A plethora of airlines fly from the UK via their European or Middle Eastern hubs to cities across China, including Qatar Airways via Doha and Finnair from Helsinki. The latter flies daily to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong; four times a week to Chongqing and Guangzhou; and three times a week to Nanjing and Xi’an.



Hilton, Park Plaza, Holiday Inn and Shangri-La are all represented in Beijing. The upscale, modern New World Beijing Hotel is centrally located, while the striking Hotel Eclat is another popular choice.

You'll find all the major groups present in Hong Kong, many of which enjoy the best views over the harbour. If the budget allows, consider the very cool Upper House or the historic Peninsula hotel.

Marriott choices in the city include Fairfield by Marriott Shanghai Jing’an and Delta Hotels by Marriott Shanghai Baoshan. Or try the Central Hotel Shanghai, Radisson Blu Shanghai New World or Pentahotel Shanghai.


After Hours

The Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs are both worth a day-trip out of the city. Otherwise, cultural attractions include the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven.

The unique Fengdu Ghost City is a complex of shrines and temples dedicated to the afterlife.

Take a train ride up Victoria Peak for unrivalled views of the destination. Lantau Island is the home to Po Lin Monastery and its 34-metre Buddha. Victoria Harbour is a bustling area, and you can take the Star Ferry between the islands.

The peaceful Yu Garden features traditional pavilions, towers and ponds. The Bund waterfront area showcases distinctive colonial buildings – and head to Nanjing Road for shopping.