I’m in Beijing for the visit of David Cameron, the UK prime minister, four of his cabinet ministers and around 50 business leaders.
It’s the largest trade delegation since the visit of Lord Macartney at the end of the 18th century.
Every seat in the lobby of Beijing’s Great World Hotel was taken today, with many of the chief executives and their entourages meeting Chinese contacts.
Universally, the line is that China’s explosive growth is the only way they can make up for slowing growth in their home markets. As soon as China opens up they say, the fortunes of their firms will be transformed.
Of course, everyone has been saying the same line for a long time now. It’s difficult to believe whether the businessmen are starting to believe their own rhetoric.
But if I was a shareholder in a business that said it was reliant on the Chinese market for future growth, I would be extremely nervous.
China, like every other country, is not keen on opening up sectors to foreign companies if it does not already have formidable local competitors. After all, why would the Communist party want to sacrifice local jobs and local businesses on an altar of free trade.
China will open up, undoubtedly, but only when its local businesses have reached the stage when they can compete with foreign firms. So while it might look like foreign companies could benefit hugely in China, if only they had market access, by the time they get that market access, they may find the benefits of being in China somewhat reduced.
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