AustCham Beijing Chairman’s Column: Leading the way

New energy and direction is driving Australia’s business and political leaders, writes AustCham Beijing Chairman, David Olsson.

If the key message to Australian business is how to respond to the scale and pace of China’s economic transformation, Australia’s political and business leaders are showing that they are listening.

In April, Prime Minister Julia Gillard made her first visit as Prime Minister to Beijing, accompanied by one of the largest Australian business delegations ever to travel to China. For two days the Prime Minister and her advisors engaged in a series of high level political talks and the delegation participated in a business forum with Chinese counterparts.

In May, the Australian Institute of Company Directors will hold its annual conference in Beijing. Over 500 are expected to attend the four-day conference, where many of the sessions are directed to provide insights about China, its politics, its economy and its markets.

China’s growth and globalisation is having a significant impact on global business. Australia is in the driving seat to engage the opportunities flowing from China’s economic transformation. Nearly a quarter of Australia’s global trade – worth around $100 billion – is with China – higher than any other nation other than Taiwan and Korea, but our collective understanding of this profound and dramatic change remains basic.

The renewed interest shown by these visits provides new energy around the relationships, but the question remains: are we sufficiently prepared for a future where China plays such a key role?

For many the answer to this is a resounding “no”. The rules of business competition have changed. Strategies adopted five, or even as few as two to three years ago now need to be refreshed. China today is very different from the China of only a few years ago. AustCham Beijing members living and working in China know that well.

These visits and the discussions that will ensue will provide a welcome opportunity for colleagues from Australia to touch and feel the China of today and hopefully lead and participate in new discussions around the opportunities that lie ahead.

AustCham Beijing will be actively participating in all the events surrounding these visits. For Australian companies that are not members of AustCham Beijing, we urge you to consider membership. We have active working groups across a range of sectors and are clear in our mission to provide a strong voice for Australian business on the ground in China.

Underpinning the business goals of AustCham Beijing are a series of events designed to bring the Australian community together. Our industry Working Groups and regular seminars and networking events are at the heart of our efforts. Our next big event will be our Annual General Meeting and Dinner on June 30. I urge you to come along and have your say in the future direction of the Chamber.

austcham_bj_ball_webWe also recognise the importance of having fun and enjoying the company of new friends and old. Our annual gala charity ball held in March brought together over 500 Australians and friends of Australia in a night of glamour, fine food and wine and great music. It was a wonderful night that really brought the Australian community together.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the ongoing generosity of the AustCham community. This year we have already witnessed some extraordinary natural disasters, both in Australia and the region. We have raised money and volunteered our services. Above all, our thoughts and hearts are with all those who have suffered, and particularly with those people in Japan who are currently dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami

*For more information visit AustCham Beijing’s website: www.austcham.org

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