Greater cooperation and collaboration is in store for AustCham Greater China as the organisation enters the Year of the Snake, writes AustCham Shanghai Chairman, Peter Arkell.
Followers of the Chairman’s columns from both Shanghai and Beijing over the past couple of years will have noticed regular mentions of AustCham Greater China (AGC).
At the very least they will have noticed that the logos supporting both articles have had the same branding for at least the past 12 months.
The drive for a “One China Chamber” actually began in earnest three years ago and has been a big part of the agenda for the boards of the Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong chambers – especially the two mainland boards as they tackled the complications of integrating the two entities.
While most of our goals are common and many of our strategies are shared, the fact has been that we have evolved independently with separate structures and processes.
It was quite remarkable that when a delegation of AustCham Shanghai directors arranged to meet the Beijing board in 2009 to pitch the idea of a Greater China organisation, Beijing had simultaneously already reached the same decision.
It was a remarkable coincidence, and provided a great sense of goodwill to accomplish the objective of a One China Chamber for AustCham.
Central to the thinking behind this unity of identity was to draw in those Australian business communities beyond the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai. But central to the planning had to be that the national entity could not diminish the representative connection with the local communities.
The logo that you see at the foot of this column and that of my AustCham Beijing counterpart, David Olsson, was adopted and launched at the Westpac Australia China Business Awards in Hong Kong in 2011 and has been used in all Shanghai and Beijing chamber material since then.
A lot has happened in that time. Over the last months of 2012, David and I spent a good amount of time on the road in China talking with other Australian business communities about the concept of AustCham Greater China.
Kevin Li, the Chairman of AustCham South China, based in the Guangzhou area, believes his Chamber is actually the longest established Australian Chamber of Commerce in China. Kevin is sure that AustCham South China kicked off a year or two ahead of Shanghai. His Chamber is a different demographic to the Shanghai and Beijing chapters, being of more Chinese Australian make up than us northern counterparts.
Their integration into AustCham Greater China will bring a greater diversity to the AustCham voice as it represents the views of the Australian business community here.
Seeing AustCham South China as a part of the AGC structure is a most important cog in the wheel and the meeting that David and I had with their Board clearly demonstrated the strength of the AGC model.
The end of 2012 also saw the emergence of an AustCham in West China, to cover Chengdu and Chongqing. David and I again set out together, this time to Chengdu, to attend a community meeting organised by David Dukes and his Austrade team.
There was such a welcome and enthusiasm for an opportunity to establish an AustCham in that region and to be included within the AGC model. Their Chairman, Ching Lee, has worked in Chengdu for many years as the China head of Rheem. Already their board has been elected and they are quickly putting in place a local structure that will serve the Australian business community there.
The Year of the Dragon 2012, has made some very key progress, but this Year of the Snake is said to be one that will deliver cooperation and collaboration. The details for integration are still a work in progress but we are expecting there will be another major milestone achieved for AustCham Greater China in the coming months.
So, with various chambers based around China and drawing on local and diverse communities, we are all able to speak as one voice through the One China Chamber as an advocate for our enterprises here, or as a window for Australia to observe the realities of the China economy, and to take advice from expertise on the ground in China. ■
*Pictured: AustCham Greater China is quickly gaining strength and momentum as it incorporates western China. From left to right, David Olsson, Peter Arkell, Jill Collins (Consul General South China), Kevin Li (Chairman AustCham South China), Alfred Leong (Director AustCham South China), Joelle Zhou (AustCham South China Secretariat). The photo was taken in the AustCham South China boardroom.