Chinese companies playing key global role

By ZHONG NAN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-19 08:26
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A miniature robot is displayed at the expo. [WANG JING/CHINA DAILY]

Central focus

Long Guoqiang, vice-president of the State Council's Development Research Center, said, "The need to enhance the operations of global supply chains has become a central focus for strategic initiatives pursued by businesses and governments across the world."

With widespread emphasis placed on strengthening supply chain resilience in various industries and economies, there is an apparent lack of coordinated efforts to ensure that restructuring initiatives yield a truly robust, resilient and efficient global supply chain network, Long said.

As the world economy is facing the headwinds of deglobalization and the challenge of supply chain restructuring, China has taken measures to remove all restrictive measures on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector. It is using international transportation channels such as the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor and China-Europe freight train services, as well as hosting the first CISCE, to encourage multinationals to invest in its market.

Ministry of Industry and Information Technology data show the added value of China's manufacturing sector accounted for nearly 30 percent of the global total last year, ranking first in the world for 13 consecutive years.

Ren Hongbin, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said that based on its large market size, China is committed to providing ample space for global industrial and supply chains to operate.

He said the scarcest resource in the world today is the market, and the size of the market determines the depth of division of labor, which in turn determines the level of industrial development. With a population of more than 1.4 billion and a middle-income group of over 400 million, China is the world's second-largest consumer market.

Fueled by free trade deals and initiatives such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement and the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, many multinationals believe that China will continue to be a crucial gateway to the broader Asia-Pacific region, presenting lucrative business opportunities for global investors.

For example, the BRI has evolved into a well-received international public good and a platform for cross-border cooperation. In the decade since the inception of the BRI, China and other countries have engaged in imports and exports valued at $19.1 trillion, with two-way investments surpassing $380 billion, Ministry of Commerce data show.

Meanwhile, a series of cooperative projects covering agriculture, infrastructure development, energy, the digital economy, and other sectors have effectively helped upgrade industrial structures and optimize industrial chains in various countries and regions.

Early last month, the International Monetary Fund raised its growth projection for the Chinese economy this year from 5 percent to 5.4 percent. Multinational corporations, which accounted for 30.4 percent of China's total foreign trade value from January to November, said they were seeing more export opportunities in areas such as the green economy, advanced manufacturing, and innovation-driven growth in China.

Rajat Agarwal, vice-president of German industrial conglomerate Henkel Group, said that if the current approach of foreign investors in China lies in China, then the next direction for global upgrading is also likely to be in China.

Henkel Group is building an innovation center in Shanghai, which will be the company's second-largest such center in the world when it is completed in 2025, Agarwal added.

In the first quarter of next year, German chemical products manufacturer Covestro will put a new polyurethane dispersal plant in Shanghai into operation.

Thomas Roemer, Covestro's head of business entity for coatings and adhesives, said that in addition to supplying products to domestic manufacturers, the plant will enable the company to seize growth opportunities associated with waterborne systems in the Asia-Pacific region.

"China is, of course, expected to grow faster than many parts of the world, both for the local market and the export market. We have observed a strong inclination toward waterborne systems in the automotive, consumer electronics, packaging and print industries," Roemer said.

Thanks to the lower tariffs resulting from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, and tangible growth of the BRI, market acceptance and transition of environmentally friendly solutions will evolve even further in China and Asia-Pacific economies, he added.

In addition to its top markets of China and India, Covestro, which is headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany, has seen substantial growth in its coatings and adhesives business in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years, particularly in emerging markets such as Vietnam and Indonesia.

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